North Dakota’s spring pheasant population index is down 30 percent from the same time last year, according to the state Game and Fish Department’s 2018 spring crowing count survey.
R.J. Gross, upland game management biologist, said the number of roosters heard crowing this spring was down statewide, with decreases ranging from 15 to 38 percent in the primary regions holding pheasants.
“We entered spring with a lower than average number of adult birds,” Gross said. “Last year’s production was far below average due to the statewide drought conditions.”
However, Gross said the past winter was good for bird survival, so hens should be in good physical shape for the nesting season.
“In addition, this spring’s weather has been good so far, as most of the state has received adequate rainfall,” he added. “If the trend continues, a good hatch should be expected, but it will take a few years of good reproduction to get the population back to where it was before the drought.”
While the spring number is an indicator, Gross said it does not predict what the fall population will look like. Brood surveys, which begin in late July and are completed by September, provide a much better estimate of summer pheasant production and what hunters might expect for a fall pheasant population.
Pheasant crowing counts are conducted each spring throughout North Dakota. Observers drive specified 20-mile routes, stopping at predetermined intervals, and counting the number of pheasant roosters heard crowing over a two-minute period during the stop.
The number of pheasant crows heard is compared to previous years’ data, providing a trend summary.