N.D. pheasant count bodes well for hunters

As expected given the increases in neighboring states, North Dakota’s pheasant counts are up from last year.

North Dakota pheasant counts are up 30 percent, and brood counts increased 37 percent from last year. (N.D. Game and Fish Department photo)

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department this morning released results from its roadside pheasant survey, and birds and total broods are up statewide from 2013. Stan Kohn, the department’s upland game management supervisor, said total pheasants are up 30 percent from last year while brood counts are up 37 percent. On the downside, the average brood size was down 4 percent.

The final summary is based on 253 survey runs made along 106 brood routes across North Dakota.

“With the good spring weather for most of the nesting and early brooding period, I suspected a better production year and it looks like it did occur,” Kohn said in a news release.

Even though average brood size is down slightly in all districts, Kohn said the number of broods observed will in most cases offset the small decline.

“Late-summer roadside counts indicate pheasant hunters are going to find more pheasants in most parts of the state, with more young roosters showing up in the fall population,” Kohn said.

Here’s the breakdown by region:

Southwest: Total pheasants were up 22 percent and broods observed were up 23 percent. Observers counted 19 broods and 154 birds per 100 survey miles. The average brood size was 5.7.

Southeast: Birds are up 2 percent, and broods are up 16 percent. Observers counted six broods and 50 birds per 100 miles. The average brood size was 5.4.

Northwest: Pheasants are up 21 percent from last year, with broods up 26 percent. Observers recorded seven broods and 57 birds per 100 miles. Average brood size was 5.1.

Northeast: Marginal even in good years, the northeast had two broods and 16 birds per 100 miles. Average brood size was 4.2. Number of birds observed was up 126 percent, and the number of broods recorded was up 166 percent.

North Dakota’s pheasant season opens Oct. 11 and continues through Jan. 4.

Zebra mussels in Cass Lake a first for the Bemidji area

There was more discouraging news in the advance of aquatic invasive species today with the announcement that zebra mussels have been confirmed in Cass Lake east of Bemidji.

One of the zebra mussels found this week in Cass Lake. (Minnesota DNR photo)

According to the Department of Natural Resources, a citizen discovered the zebra mussels earlier in the week while collecting shells on the beach on the southeast corner of Cedar Island. The area is a popular beach and swimming area where people park their watercraft to swim and fish.

Three hollow (dead) zebra mussels of varying sizes (ages) were collected. The samples were given to a DNR creel clerk who submitted them to the DNR area fisheries office in Bemidji where they were verified to be zebra mussels, the agency said in a news release.

DNR staff then conducted a search on Cass Lake around the northwest and southeast points of Cedar Island. The crew inspected more than 200 items along 565 feet of shoreline and 2,500 square feet of lake habitat and found zebra mussels in a variety of sizes.

“This is the first confirmed adult zebra mussel find in the Bemidji area,” said Nicole Kovar, DNR invasive species specialist.

Cass Lake will be designated as zebra mussel infested. The reach of the Mississippi River between Cass Lake and Lake Winnibigoshish will also be designated as zebra mussel waters with this discovery. Lake Winnibigoshish was designated as infested with zebra mussels in 2013 due to the discovery of zebra mussel veligers.

Buck Lake, Andrusia Lake, Wolf Lake, Pike Bay, Pug Hole Lake, Kitchi Lake, Little Rice Lake and Big Rice Lake and their respective connecting rivers will also be designated as zebra mussel infested, the DNR said. While no zebra mussels have been found in these lakes, they are heavily used by boaters traveling from Cass Lake.

For more information about zebra mussels, how to inspect boats and other water-related equipment, and a current list of designated infested waters, click here.


Bears, berries and birds

I just talked to Gretchen Mehmel, manager of Red Lake Wildlife Management Area, for a story about the Minnesota ruffed grouse season, which opens Sept. 13. Hard to believe it’s that time already, but the bite in the air the past few mornings and evenings is proof that fall is just around the corner.

Despite the approaching change of seasons, Mehmel says the WMA and adjacent Beltrami Island State Forest still offer pretty good blueberry picking opportunities. This has been a banner year for blueberries, and open areas adjacent to jackpine stands are good places to look.

The bumper berry crop appears to be a detriment to bear hunters, though. Bear season only opened Monday, but Mehmel says usually a few hunters by this time have stopped by WMA headquarters at Norris Camp to report or register bears, but there hasn’t been a single hunter so far.

As for upland birds, without giving away too many details, there’s cause for optimism if you like to hunt ruffed grouse. Ditto for sharptails and woodcock, it appears. Check out Sunday’s section of Northland Outdoors for a closer look at upland prospects in Minnesota  and North Dakota.