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North Dakota’s Pheasant hunting season

Published: Oct. 2, 2021 at 5:53 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - In this week’s segment of North Dakota Outdoors, Mike Anderson gives us a preview of what hunters can expect during the upcoming pheasant hunting season.

With extreme drought over most of the state, pheasant populations are down compared to last year.

“The two biggest things that affect pheasant populations are weather and habitat. And with the drought both of those are impacted. Especially weather, the habitat isn’t growing up with no moisture, also no bugs, so no food for those chicks the first two weeks, inclusively all they eat are insects,” said NDGF upland game biologist Rj Gross.

Roadside pheasant brood counts are conducted in late July and August.

“They are predetermined 20-mile routes. We have 100 of them spaced across the state in every management district. We get out there, we run those three times at sunrise. We drive below 15 mph, every time you see an upland bird, you get out, clap your hands, stomp your feet, try to get it to flush, see if there’s any upland chicks with it,” said Gross.

Upland game biologists look at three metrics when conducting these surveys: pheasants per 100 miles, broods per 100 miles and average brood size.

“So statewide results from the survey, we were down 23% in pheasants per 100 miles driven. We were down 30% in broods per 100 miles driven. And then average brood size, which was a positive, was relatively unchanged. And some bright spots were the very far northwest part of the state and the very far southwest part of the state,” said Gross.

The best survey mornings are clear, calm, with heavy dew on the grass.

“With the drought, obviously, that heavy dew was nonexistent. And the survey is based on the grass is supposed to be wet, they come out, dry themselves off, come to the roadside and obviously, with the drought, the dew wasn’t there,” said Gross.

There are no regulation changes this year, but there are a few things hunters should be reminded of.

“The only thing hunters need to be aware of this year is the electronic posting. And then also looking at your daily fire indexes and checking ndresponse.gov,” said Gross.

With dry conditions on the landscape, hunters need to temper their expectations.

“A lot of your traditional spots you probably go to are not going to be as productive this year. But I think when you find good pheasant cover and habitat, you’re going to find pheasants,” said Gross.

The pheasant hunting season opens October 9th and continues through January 2nd, 2022.

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