Winter mortality due to unusually harsh weather and lower production this summer because of a cool, wet spring kept the number of young birds down and made for lower recruitment of young into the fall population, according to Stan Kohn, upland game management supervisor for the state Game and Fish Department.
The harsh winter exacerbated CRP loss in NoDak – 570,000 acres have expired since 2005, while another 236,000 acres are set to expire in September and nearly 1.7 million acres are set to expire by 2012.
Total pheasants were down 50 percent statewide from last year, brood observations were down 46 percent, and average brood size was down 13 percent. The final summary is the result of 265 runs made along 95 brood routes across North Dakota.
Kohn said this summer’s brood data indicates that the high pheasant numbers of 2004-2008 won’t be seen this fall. “Hunters will observe fair pheasant numbers in areas with better habitat but will notice fewer birds overall,” Kohn said. “This season is going to require more walking and extra effort to fill a bag.”
Total pheasants counted in the four districts of the state were down between 43-60 percent. Brood observations – the lowest since 2000 – closely resemble the number of pheasants seen per 100 miles. While the average brood size is down in all four districts, several are comparable to 2008.
“Our poor production the last two years may have been the result of hatching of partial clutches, but certainly indicates a good amount of renesting attempts by hens,” Kohn said. “Renests have fewer eggs, and this makes for fewer chicks in the brood.”
Statistics from southeastern North Dakota indicate 6.7 broods and 56 birds per 100 miles were observed. The average brood size was 4.96. “The southeast took a pretty good hit in pheasant mortality last winter, as both broods and number of pheasants observed this summer were down 60 percent from last year,” Kohn said. “Combine this with late-maturing row crops that most likely will be standing in October, and hunters will have their work cut out for any early season success.”
Results from the northwest indicate 6.4 broods and 48 birds per 100 miles. Average brood size was 5.3. “Pheasant numbers in this district are the lowest since 2000, but there will be some local areas with good opportunities,” Kohn said.
Observers surveying in the southwest counted 15 broods and 113 birds per 100 miles. The average brood size was 5.05. “Though brood and pheasant numbers are down about 40 percent from last year, this area will likely have the best pheasant numbers in the state, albeit well below what hunters have seen the last several years,” Kohn said.
The 2009 regular pheasant season opens Oct. 10 and continues through Jan. 3, 2010. The two-day youth pheasant hunting weekend, when legally licensed residents and nonresidents ages 15 and younger can hunt statewide, is set for Oct. 3-4.