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Doug Leier: Spring pheasant count declines, but summer brood conditions could improve fall prospects

The primary regions holding pheasants showed 14.1 crows per stop in the southwest, down from 18.4 in 2021; 13.7 crows per stop in the northwest, down from 14.3; and 9.7 crows per stop in the southeast, down from 14.5.

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The number of roosters heard crowing during the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s 2022 spring pheasant crowing count survey was down 22% statewide from last year.
Contributed/North Dakota Game and Fish Department
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Doug Leier is an outreach biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. Reach him at dleier@nd.gov.

WEST FARGO – Most hunters don’t apologize, while spending the summer fishing, camping or enjoying any number of outdoor activities, if the conversations drift to the coming fall hunting season.

We’re prone to keeping one eye on the bobber and another on the calendar while our imagination thinks of what the fields and skies might hold this fall.

While we all have our own idea of what the fall seasons might hold, we’re gradually gathering data and information on the post-winter numbers, while at the same time, Game and Fish Department biologists are working on gathering counts from waterfowl and upland game midsummer brood runs. One July piece of the puzzle for fall we can put into place is the numbers from the spring pheasant crowing count index.

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The number of roosters heard crowing during the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s 2022 spring pheasant crowing count survey was down 22% statewide from last year.
“The decrease comes as no surprise,” said R.J. Gross, department upland game management biologist. “We documented below average production from late summer roadside counts, and the hunter-harvested wing survey confirmed a 2-to-1 juvenile-to-adult ratio, which are lingering effects from the drought of 2021."

The primary regions holding pheasants showed 14.1 crows per stop in the southwest, down from 18.4 in 2021; 13.7 crows per stop in the northwest, down from 14.3; and 9.7 crows per stop in the southeast, down from 14.5. The count in the northeast, which is not a primary region for pheasants, was 3 crows per stop, down from 5.2 last year.

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RJ Gross, upland game biologist, North Dakota Game and Fish Department.
Contributed / North Dakota Game and Fish Department

“Hatching conditions improved across the state with adequate moisture. These conditions should foster insect hatches, which would provide forage to chicks for brood rearing,” Gross said. “Pheasant chicks hatched from early June through late July. Much of nesting success will depend on the weather, and we will more accurately assess pheasant production during our late summer roadside counts, which began at the end of July.”

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 2-minute period.

The number of pheasant crows heard are compared to previous years’ data, providing a trend summary.

Doug Leier is an outreach biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. Reach him at dleier@nd.gov.
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