By Doug Leier

It's that time of year again when a lot of us take a look back at the past 365 days. For me it's an enjoyable exercise as I can sift through my weekly columns to see how the year unfolded from an outdoors perspective.

141231higher pheasant numbers

Winter 2014 wasn't particularly snowy and that played a role in a higher spring pheasant count.​

And it's nice to have that printed record so I'm not relying solely on short-term memory to verify if indeed spring was to slow to arrive, or the pheasant hatch was an improvement over 2013.

The turn of the calendar to 2014 marked the start of a new schedule of hunting and fishing license fees. The new fees, many of which had not increased for 15 years or more, were the result of Senate Bill 2231, passed during the 2013 state legislative session. The bill passed the state senate overwhelmingly by a 39-6 vote, and the house followed suit with a vote of 77-15.

In early January, Game and Fish also announced a series of special "deer management" meetings across the state. The meetings were an effort to start a discussion on the state's declining deer population and what options might be available to more fairly distribute available licenses during a time when more than 26,000 people who applied for a deer gun license did not get one.

In December, after outlining a proposal that would have allowed only one deer license per hunter, Game and Fish decided to retain the current system, which allows hunters to purchase an archery license in addition to licenses received in the deer gun and muzzleloader lottery license drawings.

In 2014, Game and Fish allocated 48,000 deer gun season licenses, the fewest since 1980. That compares to more than 140,000 licenses available as recently as 2008.

April 1st marked the beginning of the 2014-2016 fishing regulations. One notable statewide change reduced the crappie limit from 20 daily and 80 in possession, to 10 and 20 respectively.

Game and Fish also made several changes to the paddlefish snagging season, reducing daily snagging hours and the number of days each week open to snagging harvest. With these additional regulations, Game and Fish decided it would not implement a lottery for paddlefish tags during 2014 or 2015.

Winter severity is always a popular topic when assessing the outdoor scene, and 2013-14 stood out because it was cold and lingered well into spring. That made for some less-than-ideal conditions for fisheries crews working the spring spawn, but most goals were met despite the adverse weather.

On the other hand, it wasn't particularly snowy and that played a role in a higher spring pheasant count. Spring mule deer, sharp-tailed grouse and Hungarian partridge and breeding duck numbers were up as well.

Summer weather was about ideal for upland game nesting and brood rearing, and pheasant brood survey numbers again generated some positive buzz, with total birds observed up 30 percent from 2013.

October was generally mild and waterfowl hunters patiently waited for snow and cold to trigger an expected strong migration, but when the cold came it was intense and stayed for several weeks, pushing most waterfowl out of the state within a couple of days.

That mid-November cold spell, however, made a lot of early ice and spurred ice fishing into full gear well before it gets going in most years.

I'm betting the long and productive ice-fishing season will be one of the highlights of 2015 when I look back at this time next year.