Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

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North Dakota wildlife officials expect good pheasant year

Bismarck, N.D. (AP) – North Dakota wildlife officials are anticipating a good production year for pheasants but have concerns about the population of the upland game bird long term.

Officials heard 10 percent more crows during the annual spring crowing count survey, and all parts of the state had an increase over the year, according to the state Game and Fish Department. The number of crows heard in the southeast increased by 12 percent, the northwest by 8 percent, the northeast by 6 percent and the southwest by 4 percent.

"Even with the nice winter last year, I anticipated fewer adult birds to be available this spring because poor production in spring of 2009 through 2011 led to fewer young birds entering the fall population,'' said Stan Kohn, upland game management supervisor for Game and Fish.

However, even with a somewhat smaller breeding class of birds, hens were in better shape this spring because of less winter stress and deaths, Kohn said. Nesting habitat also looks to be in good condition in all areas of the state, and nesting and brooding weather this past spring was almost ideal.

"I expect much better upland game production this summer,'' Kohn said. "Pheasant hens are finding better-quality nesting and brooding cover on the uplands this spring, and with the good weather, more hens were successful with first clutches, a positive sign of a good production year.''

Pheasant crowing counts are conducted each spring throughout North Dakota. Observers drive specified 20-mile routes, stopping at predetermined intervals and counting the number of pheasant roosters heard crowing over a two-minute period. The number of pheasant crows heard is compared to previous years' data. Brood surveys that begin in mid-July and are completed by September give a better indicator of actual pheasant production and provide insight into what hunters can expect for a fall pheasant population.

Pheasant hunting is big business in North Dakota, with half a million birds killed during a typical season. Officials are worried about the impending loss of hundreds of thousands of acres of Conservation Reserve Program land. The federal government pays landowners to take the land out of production and plant cover crops that make ideal wildlife habitat. Contracts on about 850,000 acres will expire by fall, according to Game and Fish.

The loss of CRP land is going to decrease nesting and brooding cover in the future and hurt the pheasant population, Kohn said.

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