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THE GREAT OUTDOORS — Hunting is a popular activity in Utah, but if you didn't grow up around it, getting your feet wet in the hunting world can feel intimidating.
Luckily, one of Utah's most beginner-friendly hunts is well underway, and it's not too late to give it a shot.
The annual pheasant hunt runs from Nov. 3 to Dec. 2 this year, giving new hunters plenty of opportunities. And pheasants are "one of the best" animals for first-time hunters to target, according to Jason Robinson, the upland game coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
"They're big birds, they fly kind of slower . . . they're not terribly difficult to hit compared to a quail or a chukar," Robinson said. "If I had a new hunter, this would be one of the first animals I'd have them go and pursue."
So how exactly do you pursue pheasants here in Utah? Here are some tips:
Where to find them
Pheasants thrive in undeveloped, agricultural areas — land that is in short supply along the Wasatch Front.
The good news is that the Division of Wildlife Resources runs an extensive pheasant release program to ensure hunters have plenty of these birds available to hunt. Pheasants have long been raised and released for hunting, especially in places like Utah that are short on good habitat.
Since pheasants don't tend to winter well and the survival rate of chicks is low, wildlife biologists aren't focused on establishing long-lasting populations as much as they are with providing hunters with enough birds to hunt.
"We're to the point where we're trying to increase supply to meet demand," Robinson said.
For the 2018 season, the DWR will release pheasants at 61 locations around the Beehive State. In total, more than 10,000 birds will be let loose for hunters, according to a DWR news release.
These sites include new locations for 2018; most notably, pheasants will be released at six different locations around Utah Lake. The marshes around Utah Lake are some of the best pheasant habitats in the state, which often creates crowds of pheasant hunters.
The DWR decided to establish new release sites around Utah Lake to help spread out hunters and give everyone a better chance at taking a bird.
All 61 release sites are open to the public. You can view the sites, access and the release schedule here.
Pheasant hunting doesn't require expensive rifles, scopes and binoculars. Shotguns are the most effective weapon for taking most upland game — especially birds. Any gauge will easily take pheasants, but if you don't have much experience with shotguns, you may prefer a 20 or 28 gauge instead of the more popular 12 gauge.
Hunter orange is a good idea as well, since a lot of pheasant hunting takes place in areas with tall grass and around other people.
Have you ever hunted pheasants in Utah? Will this year be your first? Let us know in the comments.