North Dakota Game and Fish Department upland game biologists conduct roadside brood counts

Published: Sep. 19, 2020 at 7:12 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - For pheasant hunters in North Dakota the most important question heading into Fall is how bird numbers are looking. Mike Anderson takes us along on this year’s pheasant brood counts in this week’s segment of North Dakota Outdoors.

State Game and Fish Department upland game biologists conduct roadside brood counts from late July through August each year.

“We’re doing late summer roadside counts to measure the reproductive success of all of our upland birds, including pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse, partridge and turkey. This survey covers almost the entire state, most areas where you’d have upland game birds," said NDGF Upland Game Biologist, Jesse Kolar.

Kolar says biologists drive slow on gravel roads, and weather conditions need to be perfect to get an accurate count on these 20-mile routes.

“We start these surveys every morning at sunrise. Ideally, you’d have a really dewy, wet morning and the birds are going to be wet and they’ll drive out of the grass, out of the ditches and onto the roadsides, and they’ll sit on the open roads to dry off," said Kolar.

And when broods are on the road out of the dewy grass, the counting begins.

“We’ll jump out of the truck, go into the ditch and make noise, clap or walk back and forth trying to bird dog the birds and get them to flush out and get an accurate count of how many chicks there are with every hen," said Kolar.

Biologists have been running late summer brood surveys for over five- decades and have collected excellent long-term trend data.

“The long-term trends have been up and down. So every year we obviously have different climate conditions and different habitat conditions. And even our counts might fluctuate based on whether or not there are standing crops one year and harvested crops the next year. So we never look at individual years, but our long term trends are usually what we’re looking at," said Kolar.

And the big question is, how are numbers looking this fall?

“And almost every number on the graph, the size of the broods, the number of chicks per hen, the number of broods per mile that we survey, the number of birds per mile surveyed for pheasants, turkeys, grouse and partridge, everything looked like it was up slightly in some areas, it was up three or four fold," said Kolar.

The regular North Dakota pheasant season opens Saturday October 10th.

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