North Dakota sharptails: ‘Hunters will see significantly lower numbers of grouse statewide’
North Dakota’s roadside surveys conducted in late July and August indicate total pheasant and Hungarian partridge numbers this fall are similar to last year, while sharp-tailed grouse numbers are down.
R.J. Gross, upland game management biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, said the survey shows total pheasants observed per 100 miles are down 2 percent from last year. In addition, broods per 100 miles were unchanged, while the average brood size was up 27 percent. The final summary is based on 278 survey runs made along 101 brood routes across North Dakota.
“Even though survey data suggests pheasant production was certainly better than last year, hunters will still notice the lack of production from 2017 in the overall population,” Gross said.
Sharptails observed per 100 miles are down 49 percent statewide from 2017, while partridge are up 7 percent.
“Hunting will be slower than last season in most of the state, and all indications are that hunters will see significantly lower numbers of grouse statewide,” Gross said. “There will be localized areas of good hunting opportunities, but in general hunting will be fair at best.”
Despite increases in sharptail lek counts this spring for eastern North Dakota, brood survey results show statewide declines in number of grouse and broods observed per 100 miles, and a slight decline in average brood size. Observers recorded 0.8 sharptail broods and 6.8 sharptails per 100 miles. Average brood size was 4.55.
Statistics from southwestern North Dakota indicate total pheasants were down 32 percent and broods observed down 29 percent from 2017. For every 100 survey miles, observers counted an average of six broods and 45 pheasants. The average brood size was 5.2 chicks. Despite the population decline, Gross said the southwest still holds the most pheasants in the state.
Results from the southeast show birds are up 63 percent from last year, and the number of broods up 77 percent. Observers counted five broods and 40 birds per 100 miles. The average brood size was 5.8. Gross said while some areas of the state show a large increase in percentages from last year, such as in the southeast, it is important to keep in mind this is based off a low population in those areas in 2017.
Statistics from the northwest indicate pheasants are up 9 percent from last year, with broods up 4 percent. Observers recorded three broods and 26 pheasants per 100 miles. Average brood size was 6.5.
The northeast district, generally containing secondary pheasant habitat with lower pheasant numbers compared to the rest of the state, showed two broods and 19 pheasants per 100 miles. Average brood size was 5.8.
Although partridge numbers have shown a slight increase, Gross said the majority of the partridge harvest is incidental while hunters pursue grouse or pheasants. Partridge densities in general, he said, are too low to target. Observers recorded 0.4 partridge broods and 4.4 partridge per 100 miles. Average brood size was 7.03.
The 2018 regular pheasant season opens Oct. 6 and continues through Jan. 6, 2019. The two-day youth pheasant hunting weekend, when legally licensed residents and nonresidents ages 15 and younger can hunt statewide, is set for Sept. 29-30.
The 2018 grouse and partridge seasons open Sept. 8 and continue through Jan. 6, 2019.