While taking pictures of Cedar waxwings eating hawthorn berries at Beaver Dick Park along the Henrys Fork of the Snake River west of Rexburg, a movement under a picnic table caught my eye. It was a beautiful male Ring-necked pheasant pecking at the weed seeds on the ground. As I watched it, another pheasant came out of the thick willows, pecking at weed seeds next to a fire pit.
As I watched, a total of four rooster pheasants came out of the thick willows and fed along the roads and in the camping area of Beaver Dick Park which is part of the Cartier Slough Wildlife Management area. After photographing them, I drove to the back parking lot and found 11 vehicles left by hunters looking for farm-raised pheasants. These four pheasants had found a safety zone – the campground where shooting is prohibited.
While watching the four birds, I watched as a fifth one ran under two of the trucks when several shots were fired two or three hundred yards away. These pheasants will probably continue to hang out where it is safe until the season ends on November 30.
In the meantime, stocking birds will continue in four places in the Upper Snake River Area which includes the Cartier Slough Wildlife Management Area, the Market Lake WMA, the Mud Lake WMA and the Lewisville Knolls area. In the Salmon region, they will be stocked at the Kirtley Creek Access Yes! Area, the Pahsimeroi River Area and the Pratt Creek Area.
During the week starting November 19 from 115 to 170 birds are scheduled to be released in two different releases in each area. Then in the last week of the season starting on November 26 there will only be one release of from 50 to 70 birds in each area.
To hunt these stocked bird areas, each hunter must wear at least 36 square inches of hunter orange above the waist (a cap qualifies) and must purchase a six-bird permit. The daily limit is two cocks, and each kill must be immediately recorded on the permit. Hunters can only hunt these areas from 10 a.m. until and half hour after sundown each day.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game does the releasing of the birds usually early in the mornings, with the hunters trying to guess which days are the release days as it makes hunting easier. Each day the released birds get a lot smarter and make harvesting them more difficult. I am not a pheasant hunter, but I understand the desire to be in the wilds looking for them and like to watch hunters work the areas where the birds are.
Two weeks ago, I watched as three hunters hunted a corn patch at Mud Lake. Two of the hunters quickly harvested their two birds, filled out their permit and then put their weapons away and helped the other hunter flush and harvest his two birds. Then I watched a couple of hunters working their dogs in another corn row harvest their four birds. According to their license plates they had driven a long way to enjoy the morning out in the wilds. I hope their pheasant dinners were worth every minute of the time spent.
I don’t know what social media pheasants rely on to communicate to locate safety zones, but from what I observed at Beaver Dick Park, they quickly learn where they are. Last year after the season closed, about 20 birds had survived the hunt and became food for hawks, owls and other predators.
If you are so inclined to hunt these beautiful birds, you only have a couple of weeks left in the Upper Snake River Valley to hunt them. In the meantime, I will wait until the hunt is over and then I will venture out in Cartier Slough to flush my birds.
Have a very Happy Thanksgiving eating the bird of your choosing. Be safe in your travels and remember that the large wild animals are crossing many of the roads.
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