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Grouse and Partridge Seasons Open Sept. 13

Sharp-tailed grouse and partridge hunters can anticipate a few more birds in the field this fall compared to last year, according to Jerry Kobriger, upland game management supervisor for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, Dickinson.

The season opens Sept. 13 for sharptails, partridge, and ruffed grouse, while sage grouse hunters will have to wait until Sept. 15.

Hunters can expect a good sharptail season, Kobriger said. "We had a statewide increase in the spring breeding population of 30 percent, and that was on the heels of a statewide increase of more than 20 percent last year," Kobriger added. "Thus, we entered the reproductive season on a good note."

Surveys this summer indicated more broods than last year, a reflection of the higher breeding population. On average, brood size is down one young per brood this year. "The drop is more pronounced in the area southwest of the Missouri River, where it is down 1.5 young per brood," Kobriger said. "However, the increased number of broods will probably offset the drop in average brood size."

Hunters experienced in the central and northern sharptail range will probably find more broods, and brood size similar to or greater than last year.

The buffaloberry crop, usually another barometer of hunter success, is also excellent this year, Kobriger said. "There are a few pockets where berries are limited, but overall it is a very good crop, quite the opposite from last year," he added. "If the weather remains hot, grouse will be in the buffalo berries for both food and shade. If cool, windy, or wet, grouse scatter out in the grasslands and are much harder to locate."

All indicators point to a better gray partridge crop this year, Kobriger mentioned. Harvest in 2002 was up about 30 percent from the previous year, and the wing sample was up nearly 50 percent. Data from April, 2003 showed an increase of more than 20 percent in the spring breeding population. While these percentages seem large, Kobriger cautions that partridge numbers are still low, and small numerical increases can turn into sizeable percentage increases.

Brood surveys this summer showed the southwestern part of the state has the best populations, Kobriger mentioned, while the drift prairie had the best increase this summer. "While populations are still very low, there will be more coveys around this fall," he added. "Dyed-in-the-wool partridge hunters should have better success this year, but partridge will probably remain an incidental species taken by hunters actively pursuing other game birds."

A few more sage grouse were counted this spring than last year, but not enough to be significant, Kobriger said. "The outlook for sage grouse at best seems to point to an average season," he added. "Dedicated sage grouse hunters seem to be able to find flocks, while first or second time hunters have to spend much more time searching.

"We consider sage grouse a trophy species," Kobriger continued, "and hunters should be willing to spend some time to locate one of these birds."

North Dakota's spring ruffed grouse survey indicated a significant population increase compared to 2002, but that doesn't mean birds will be plentiful during the season, according to John W. Schulz, game and fish private land section leader. "Ruffed grouse populations are still at a relatively low level following the apparent cyclic low in 2002," Schulz said.

Sunrise counts taken on survey routes this spring showed increases in male grouse drumming activity in the Turtle Mountains and Pembina Hills, but a decrease in McHenry County (J. Clark Salyer National Wildlife Refuge).

Upland game hunters are encouraged to use their wing envelopes and return their hunter survey card included with their wing packet. Sage grouse hunters are asked to use the wing barrels located in the sage grouse area open for hunting.

For further information and regulations on the 2003 grouse and partridge seasons, hunters should consult the North Dakota 2003-2004 Small Game and Furbearer Guide.




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