N.D. pheasant counts drop 30 percent statewide

Stan Kohn had hinted as much last week, and now the prediction from the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s upland game supervisor is official:

Pheasant numbers in North Dakota are down 30 percent statewide from last year, the Game and Fish Department reported. The decline follows a trend that’s also been reported for pheasants in South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa.

Pheasant counts and brood numbers are down statewide from last year.

In a news release, Kohn this afternoon said total pheasants declined 30 percent from last year, and brood counts are down 29 percent; the average brood size declined 10 percent.

The results are based on 253 survey runs made along 101 brood counts across North Dakota.

“Poor production this spring resulted in fewer young birds added to the population and a lower fall population in all areas of the state,” Kohn said.

As was the case with the recent decline in sharptail counts, changes in land use, loss of acreage in the Conservation Reserve Program, a wet spring and the increase in row crops all were factors, Kohn said.

“Earlier this summer we thought it was possible that nesting season was delayed enough to avoid an influence from the cold, wet spring,” Kohn said, “but it now appears that wasn’t the case.”

Kohn said even though statistics reveal bird numbers are down statewide, there will still be local areas with good pheasant populations.

Here’s a look at the counts by region:

Southwest: The number of birds observed declined 25 percent, and the number of broods was down 22 percent. Observers counted 15 broods and 126 birds per 100 survey miles. The average brood size was 5.8.

Southeast: Down 43 percent from last year in all, withthe number of broods down 42 percent. Observers counted five broods and 49 birds per 100 miles. The average brood size was 5.9.

Northwest: Pheasant numbers declined 39 percent from last year, with broods down 32 percent. Observers recorded six broods and 48 birds per 100 miles. Average brood size was 5.5.

Northeast: This area traditionally is marginal at best, and bird numbers were down 35 percent, with brood counts down 33 percent. Observers counted only one brood and seven birds per 100 miles, and the average brood size was 4.7.

The decline in North Dakota follows a regionwide trend. South Dakota recently reported a 64 percent drop in pheasant numbers from last year, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on Monday reported a 29 percent decline in pheasant numbers from last year. Minnesota’s pheasant index is 64 percent below the 10-year average and 72 percent below the long-term average.

The 2013 regular pheasant season opens Oct. 12 and continues through Jan. 5, 2014. The two-day youth pheasant hunting weekend, when legally licensed residents and nonresidents ages 15 and younger can hunt statewide, is set for Oct. 5-6.

Minnesota’s pheasant season opens Oct. 12 and closes Jan. 1.

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