Dakota Trails - North Dakota Outdoor Sports

2018 Upland Game Seasons Summarized

North Dakota’s 2018 pheasant and sharp-tailed grouse harvests were similar to 2017, while the number of Hungarian partridge taken last year was down from the year before, according to statistics compiled by the state Game and Fish Department.

 

Upland game management supervisor Jesse Kolar said the decline in partridge during the summer 2018 brood survey was not as drastic, so he suspects the lower partridge harvest was related to fewer pheasant hunters and fewer trips per hunter.

 

“Partridge are most commonly harvested incidentally, while hunters are pursuing pheasant or grouse, so the rate of harvest does not always mirror numbers on the ground,” Kolar said.

 

More than 58,200 pheasant hunters harvested 327,000 roosters (up 6 percent) in 2018, compared to 58,300 hunters and 309,400 roosters in 2017.

 

Counties with the highest percentage of pheasants taken by resident hunters last year were Williams, 6.7; McLean, 6.5; Richland, 6; Morton, 5.6; and Divide, 5.2.

 

Top counties for nonresident hunters were Hettinger, 13.6 percent; Bowman, 10.4; Divide, 7.6; Dickey, 5.9; and Emmons, 4.8.

 

In 2018, nearly 13,100 grouse hunters (down 4 percent) harvested 45,600 sharp-tailed grouse (down 3 percent). In 2017, 13,600 hunters took 46,900 sharptails.

 

Counties with the highest percentage of sharptails taken by resident hunters in 2018 were Slope, 6.5; Walsh, 5.5; Mountrail, 5.4; Kidder, 5.3; and Benson, 4.6.

 

Top counties for nonresident hunters were Bowman, 11.3; Hettinger, 7.4; Divide, 7; Mountrail, 6.8; and Ward, 6.4.

 

Last year, 11,200 hunters (down 19 percent) harvested 23,000 Hungarian partridge (down 30 percent). In 2017, nearly 13,800 hunters harvested 32,800 Huns.

 

Counties with the highest percentage of Huns taken by resident hunters in 2018 were Williams, 15.1; Mountrail, 12.1; Logan, 7.3; Ward, 6.5; and Burke, 5.9.

 

Top counties for nonresident hunters were Divide, 10.3; McLean, 9.9; Mountrail, 9.3; Hettinger, 8.9; and Dunn, 8.2.

Youth Pheasant Weekend Sept. 29-30

North Dakota’s two-day youth pheasant season is Sept. 29-30. Legally licensed residents and nonresidents ages 15 and younger may hunt roosters statewide.

Resident youth hunters, regardless of age, must possess a fishing, hunting and furbearer certificate and general game and habitat license. Nonresident youth hunters from states that provide a reciprocal licensing agreement for North Dakota residents qualify for North Dakota resident licenses. Otherwise, nonresident youth hunters must purchase a nonresident small game license.

Shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset. Youth ages 12 and older need to have passed a certified hunter education course. The daily bag limit and all other regulations for the regular pheasant season apply.

An adult at least 18 years of age must accompany the youth hunter in the field. The adult may not carry a firearm.

See the North Dakota 2018-19 Hunting and Trapping Guide for additional information.

Spring Pheasant Count Down from Last Year

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.

2016 North Dakota Pheasant Broods Down

North Dakota’s roadside pheasant survey conducted in late July and August indicates total birds and number of broods are down statewide from 2015.

Aaron Robinson, upland game management supervisor for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, said the survey shows total pheasants are down 10 percent from last year. In addition, brood observations were down 7 percent, while the average brood size was down 8 percent. The final summary is based on 276 survey runs made along 105 brood routes across North Dakota.

“Compared to last year, our late summer roadside counts indicate pheasant hunters are going to have to work harder to find more pheasants in most parts of the state, with fewer young roosters showing up in the fall population,” Robinson said. “As always, there will be local areas within all four pheasant districts where pheasant numbers will be both better and below what is predicted for the district.”

Statistics from southwestern North Dakota indicate total pheasants were down 21 percent and broods observed down 19 percent from 2015. Observers counted 21 broods and 168 birds per 100 survey miles. The average brood size was 5.5.

Results from the southeast show birds are down 4 percent from last year, and the number of broods up 1 percent. Observers counted eight broods and 62 birds per 100 miles. The average brood size was 5.0.

photoby Craig Birhle, ND Game and Fish

Statistics from the northwest indicated pheasants are up 129 percent from last year, with broods up 161 percent. Observers recorded 12 broods and 93 birds per 100 miles. Average brood size was 6.1.

The northeast district, generally containing secondary pheasant habitat, with much of it lacking good winter cover, showed two broods and 14 birds per 100 miles. Average brood size was 3.9. Number of birds observed remained the same, and the number of broods recorded was up 5 percent.

The 2016 regular pheasant season opens Oct. 8 and continues through Jan. 8, 2017. The two-day youth pheasant hunting weekend, when legally licensed residents and nonresidents ages 15 and younger can hunt statewide, is set for Oct. 1-2.

Spring Upland Game Index Numbers

North Dakota’s spring pheasant population index is up slightly from last year, while sharp-tailed grouse numbers are down slightly, according to recent surveys conducted by State Game and Fish Department biologists.

Aaron Robinson, upland game management supervisor, said the number of pheasant roosters heard on the spring crowing count survey was up just about 2 percent statewide. Numbers in the southeast were down from last year, Robinson said, while “the other regions from west to central were up slightly, but not enough to say there’s a big increase from last year.”

Sharp-tailed grouse counts on spring dancing grounds or leks were down about 6 percent statewide from last year. “We were kind of expecting that,” Robinson added. “We had some dry weather last year and production wasn’t as good.”

While the spring counts provide a good indicator of the number of breeding birds in the two populations, Robinson says it’s primarily early summer weather that influences hunting success in the fall. “You have to have the right conditions to produce a good hatch,” he said. “You don’t want really wet, cold years, and you don’t want dry years. Dry years don’t produce those insects that chicks need to survive those first 10 days.”

Game and Fish biologists will start their summer upland game brood counts in mid-July, and Robinson said that will lead to more precise fall population predictions. “That’s when we really start to understand what our production was for the year.”

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.

Biologists count male sharptails on their dancing grounds in 25 monitoring blocks throughout the state, and numbers within each block are compared from year to year.

2015 Youth Pheasant Season Oct 3 and 4th

North Dakota’s two-day youth pheasant season is Oct. 3-4.

 

DSC_0037Legally licensed residents and nonresidents ages 15 and younger may hunt roosters statewide.

Resident youth hunters, regardless of age, must possess a fishing, hunting and furbearer certificate and general game and habitat license. Nonresident youth hunters from states that provide a reciprocal licensing agreement for North Dakota residents qualify for North Dakota resident licenses. Otherwise, nonresident youth hunters must purchase a nonresident small game license.

Shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset. Youth ages 12 and older need to have passed a certified hunter education course. The daily bag limit and all other regulations for the regular pheasant season apply.

An adult at least 18 years of age must accompany the youth hunter in the field. The adult may not carry a firearm.

See the 2015 North Dakota Small Game Hunting Guide for additional information.