Pheasants Bounce Back

North Dakota’s roadside pheasant survey conducted in late July and August revealed the pheasant population is in much better shape than last year, especially in the southern half of the state.

Stan Kohn, upland game management supervisor for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, said total pheasants were up 34 percent statewide from last year, brood observations were up 26 percent, and average brood size was up 14 percent. However, pheasant numbers are still down roughly 40 percent from the peak years of 2003-08. The final summary is the result of 277 runs made along 99 brood routes across North Dakota.

This summer’s brood data suggests much better production this spring than in 2008 and 2009. “Good nesting and brooding cover this spring, coupled with improved weather conditions, has increased nesting success and brood/chick survival,” Kohn said. “Consequently, more young birds will be added to the population this fall, improving pheasant numbers, especially in the southern half of the state.”

Statistics from southwestern North Dakota indicate both the number of broods and number of birds observed were up 30 percent from 2009. Observers counted 19 broods and 165 birds per 100 miles. The average brood size was six. “Brood numbers indicate the southwest will have the best pheasant numbers this fall,” Kohn said. “Though survey numbers are not at the level observed during the peak years of the mid 2000s, hunters in the southwest can expect to see good numbers of pheasants.”

Results from the southeast show 10 broods and 76 birds per 100 miles. The average brood size was 5.2. “Hunters should find more pheasants in the southeastern part of the state than last fall, as an increase in the number of broods and birds observed indicates about a 30 percent increase in pheasant numbers,” Kohn said.

Statistics from the northwest indicated seven broods and 48 birds per 100 miles. Average brood size was 5.1. “I expect the northwest will have about the same number of pheasants this fall as last year, as birds observed on the routes were unchanged from 2009 and the number of broods observed increased only 9 percent,” Kohn said.

The northeast district, generally containing secondary pheasant habitat with much of it lacking good winter cover, showed 1.3 broods and 12 birds per 100 miles. Average brood size was 5.36. Both number of birds observed and number of broods recorded were down 30 percent. “This district is not known for its pheasant population, but there will be local areas holding birds,” Kohn said.

The 2010 regular pheasant season opens Oct. 9 and continues through Jan. 2, 2011. The two-day youth pheasant hunting weekend, when legally licensed residents and nonresidents ages 15 and younger can hunt statewide, is set for Oct. 2-3.