Pheasant Numbers Down, Yet Good Year Still Expected in North Dakota
North Dakota’s roadside pheasant survey conducted in late July and August revealed lower bird numbers than last year. Total pheasants and brood observations were down 31 percent statewide from last year, while average brood size was down 13 percent, according to Stan Kohn, upland game management supervisor for the state Game and Fish Department.
Pheasant observations in the northwest, southwest and southeast portions of the state were all down approximately 25-30 percent from 2007, Kohn said, while the northeast region, which doesn’t hold much of a pheasant population, was down 63 percent. The final summary is the result of 232 runs made along 95 brood routes across North Dakota.
“I don’t believe poor production this summer is a direct result of loss of Conservation Reserve Program acres, at least not yet,” Kohn said. “I suspect the cool, rainy days the first part of June caused problems with newly-hatched chicks, and the warm, dry days in July and August may have affected insect production. The quantity and diversity of insect numbers can be crucial in maintaining body condition of pheasant chicks the first 15-20 days of life.”
Average brood size is down in all four districts, possibly due to hatching of partial clutches on first nest attempts, but it may also indicate a good amount of renesting by hens, Kohn said. “Renests have fewer eggs, and this makes for fewer chicks in the brood,” he said.
Even with the lower numbers, Kohn still believes hunters will have a pretty good pheasant season. “Traditional areas will have some good pheasant hunting spots, with many other areas requiring some additional effort to find birds,” he said.
Statistics from southeastern North Dakota indicate 17.6 broods and 148 birds per 100 miles. The average brood size was 5.55. “There will be local areas of good pheasant hunting, but in many areas of the district hunters are going to have to spend more time in the field to fill their bag,” Kohn said. “Hunting in this area prior to the harvest of corn and soybeans may be a challenge.”
Results from the northwest indicate 13.5 broods and 102 birds per 100 miles. Average brood size was 5.36. “Numbers are lower than the record breaking years of 2006 and 2007,” Kohn said. “Hunters will find numbers similar to 2005, which was still a pretty good year.”
The southwest showed 23.4 broods and 205 birds per 100 miles. The average brood size was 6.12. “This area of the state will likely have the best pheasant numbers in the state, though still below population numbers of the last two years,” Kohn said.
The 2008 regular pheasant season opens Oct. 11 and continues through Jan. 4, 2009. The two-day youth pheasant hunting weekend, when legally licensed residents and nonresidents ages 15 and younger can hunt statewide, is set for Oct. 4-5.