Dakota Country Magazine October 2016 Edition - Page 47

North Dakota Completed in early September, North Dakota’s roadside crowing count tally revealed a 10 percent drop, statewide, from 2015. Areas showing marked improvement included the northwest, which showed a 129 percent increase, and the central, with counts similar to last year. The southwest, tradition prime pheasant area of North Dakota, showed a 21 percent decrease from last year, with the number of broods down 19 percent. There, survey observers counted 21 broods and 168 birds per 100 survey miles, with the average brood size at 5.5 birds. The major issue in the southwest involved dry conditions last spring, which, while allowing for a good hatch, didn’t produce enough food for young birds to www.dakotacountrymagazine.com survive. “The southwest didn’t get any rain until near the end of July,” said small game biologist Aaron Robinson in Dickinson. “Brood numbers were fine, but brood sizes were down, and chick survival was down. The little rain meant no food, and insect production was down.” Interestingly, most hunters expected pheasant numbers, like last year, to display an increase, especially in light of the mild winter. But, as Robinson explained, other factors are involved. “Actually, I would have preferred even more snow than we got (last winter),” he said of the southwestern part of the state. “That would have kept things wet enough in spring to provide a good hatch with good food. The (pheasant) population can re- bound quickly from winter losses, but we need a good hatch in spring with good weather.” Another problem for the future, most notably next spring, was the extensive haying of CRP in the southwest recently. While it isn’ t a factor in nesting this fall, of course, it eliminated a lot of cover for hunters. That, Robinson said, will create some challenges. “It will absolutely impact hunting this fall,” Robinson said. “A lot of that (cut) CRP was PLOTS land. It will increase hunting pressure on smaller places and put more hunters on available cover. It will be interesting.” On the brighter side, there were improved rain conditions in the last half of summer in the southwest, which improved small patches of cover. Robinson said he expects birds will concentrate in these areas, but so will hunters. Southwestern North Dakota is becoming more and more commercialized. PLOTS land is important, and with up to 50 percent of CRP acreage being cut for hay in recent weeks, hunters may find challenging conditions, not only for fewer birds but more hunters. “You have to just about know someone,” he said, to get on private land. “There are some exceptions, but generally it’s hard to find places to hunt in the southwest if you’re just roaming.” Aside from the northwest, the central part of the state on both sides of the Missouri River retained good numbers of birds, and Robinson said he expects favorable results in traditional areas, with a harvest similar to 2015. Southeastern North Dakota showed a 4 percent decrease of pheasants from last year, with brood counts up 1 percent. Average brood size was 6.1 birds. In the northeast, marginal pheasant country, reports showed 2 broods and 14 birds per 100 miles. Average brood size was 3.9 birds, with the number of birds observed about the same as 2015. Robinson predicts a statewide harvest this fall at 500,000 to 540,000 birds, down from the 590,000 of 2015. North Dakota’s pheasant season opens 30 minutes before sunrise, Oct. 8, and runs through sunset, Jan. 8, 2017. • Dakota Country, October 2016, Page 47