Posts Tagged ‘North Dakota pheasant hunting’
Monday, April 29th, 2013
Last year’s list of the 25 Best Pheasant Hunting Towns in America selected locales predominately based in the Midwest where the ringneck is king. Because Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever members hail from all reaches of the United States, from Alabama to Alaska, we’ve assembled this year’s list to include pheasants as well as multiple quail species, prairie grouse and even forest birds. The main criterion was to emphasize areas capable of providing multiple species, along with destinations most-welcoming to bird hunters. In other words, there were bonus points awarded for “mixed bag” opportunities and neon signs “welcoming bird hunters” in this year’s analysis. We also avoided re-listing last year’s 25 towns, so what you now have is a good bucket list of 50 destinations for the traveling wingshooter!
What towns did we miss? Let us know in the comments section.
1. Pierre, South Dakota. This Missouri River town puts you in the heart of pheasant country, but the upland fun doesn’t stop there. In 2011 (the last year numbers were available) approximately 30 roosters per square mile were harvested in Hughes County. Cross the river and head south of Pierre and you’re into the Fort Pierre National Grassland, where sharp-tailed grouse and prairie chickens become the main quarry. In fact, the U.S. Forest Service manages the Fort Pierre National Grassland specifically for these native birds. Just North of Pierre also boasts some of the state’s best gray (Hungarian) partridge numbers as well.
While you’re there: Myril Arch’s Cattleman’s Club Steakhouse goes through an average of 60,000 pounds of aged, choice beef a year, so they must know what they’re doing.
2. Lewistown, Montana. Located in the geographic center of the state, Lewistown is the perfect city to home base a public land upland bird hunt. Fergus County has ring-necked pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse, gray (Hungarian) partridge, as well as sage grouse. You’ll chase these upland birds with stunning buttes and mountain ranges as almost surreal backdrops, and find no shortage of publically accessible land, whether state or federally owned. Two keystone Pheasants Forever wildlife habitat projects are 45 minutes from Lewistown. Located six miles north of Denton, Montana, the 800-acre Coffee Creek BLOCK Management Area is located between a 320-acre parcel and an 880-acre parcel of land – all three areas are open to public hunting. Pheasants Forever also acquired a 1,000 acre parcel known as the Wolf Creek Property, a project which created 14,000 contiguous acres open to public walk-in hunting.
While you’re there: Once the birds have been cleaned and the dog has been fed, head over to the 87 Bar & Grill in Stanford for their house specialty smoked ribs and steaks.
3. Hettinger, North Dakota. Disregard state lines and you can’t tell the difference between southwest North Dakota and the best locales in South Dakota. Hettinger gets the nod in this region because of a few more Private Land Open to Sportsmen (P.L.O.T.S.) areas.
While you’re there: A visit north to the Pheasant Café in Mott seems like a must.
4. Huron, South Dakota. Home to the “World’s Largest Pheasant,” Huron is also home to some darn good pheasant hunting. From state Game Production Areas to federal Waterfowl Production Areas to a mix of walk-in lands, there’s enough public land in the region to never hunt the same area twice on a 5 or 10-day trip, unless of course you find a honey hole.
While you’re there: The Hwy. 14 Roadhouse in nearby Cavour has the type of good, greasy food that goes down guilt free after a long day of pheasant hunting.
5. Valentine, Nebraska. One of the most unique areas in the United States, the nearly 20,000 square mile Nebraska Sandhills region is an outdoor paradise, and Valentine, which rests at the northern edge of the Sandhills, was named one of the best ten wilderness towns and cities by National Geographic Adventure magazine in 2007. Because the Sandhills are 95 percent grassland, it remains one of the most vital areas for greater prairie chickens and sharp-tailed grouse in the country. Grouse can be found on the 19,000-acre Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge and the 115,000-acre Samuel McKelvie National Forest, and grouse and pheasants may be encountered on the 73,000-acre Valentine National Wildlife Refuge.
While you’re there: Head over to the Peppermill & E. K. Valentine Lounge and devour the Joseph Angus Burger, a finalist in the Nebraska Beef Council’s Best Burger Contest.
6. White Bird, Idaho. Hells Canyon is 8,000 feet of elevation, and at various levels includes pheasants, quail, gray partridge and forest grouse. Show up in shape and plan the right route up and down, and you may encounter many of these species in one day. It’s considered by many wingshooting enthusiasts to be a “hunt of a lifetime.” Nearly 40 percent of Idaho’s Hells Canyon is publically accessible, either through state-owned lands, U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands or U.S. Forest Service lands.
While you’re there: Floats and rafting adventures are popular on the Salmon River, in case your bird hunt also needs to double as a family vacation.
7. Heppner, Oregon. Nestled in the Columbia Basin, within a half-hour drive hunters have the opportunity to harvest pheasants, California quail, Huns, chukar, and in the nearby Blue Mountains, Dusky grouse, ruffed grouse and at least the chance of running into mountain quail. With the exception of the Umatilla National Forest for grouse, the hunting opportunity is mostly on private land in the area, but the state has a number of agreements in the area for private land access through its Open Fields, Upland Cooperative Access Program and Regulated Hunt Areas.
While you’re there: As you scout, make sure to drive from Highway 74, also called the Blue Mountain Scenic Byway, winding south from Interstate 84 through Ione, Lexington and Heppner.
8. Winnemucca, Nevada. Winnemucca claims legendary status as the “Chukar Captial of the Country.” Long seasons (first Saturday in October through January 31), liberal bag limits (daily limit of six; possession limit of 18) and the fact that these birds are found almost exclusively on public land make chukar Nevada’s most popular game bird. The covey birds do well here in the steep, rugged canyons that mirror the original chukar habitat of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the birds’ native countries. Just know the first time you hunt chukar is for fun, the rest of your life is for revenge.
While you’re there: Nearby Orovada, 44 miles to the north of Winnemucca, is known for excellent hunting areas as well as breathtaking views of the Sawtooth Mountains.
9. Albany, Georgia. Buoyed by tradition and cemented with a local culture built upon the local quail plantation economy, Albany has a reputation as the “quail hunting capital of the world” and a citizenry that embraces “Gentleman Bob.”
While you’re there: save an hour for the 60 mile trip South to Thomasville, Georgia where you can visit Kevin’s, a landmark sporting goods retailer devoted to the bird hunter.
10. Milaca, Minnesota. There are places in Minnesota where pheasants can be found in greater abundance, ditto for ruffed grouse. But there are few places where a hunter may encounter both in such close proximity. While pheasants are found primarily on private land here, state Wildlife Management Areas in the region offer a chance at a rare pheasant/grouse double, including the 40,000-acre Mille Laces WMA. The nearby Rum River State Forest provides 40,000 acres to search for forest birds.
While you’re there: For lunch, the Rough-Cut Grill & Bar in Milaca is the place. This isn’t the type of joint with a lighter portion menu, so fill up and plan on walking it all off in the afternoon…before you come back for supper.
11. Sonoita, Arizona. Central in Arizona’s quail triangle – the Patagonia/Sonoita/Elgin tri-city area – the crossroads of U.S. Highways 82 and 83 puts you in the epicenter of Mearns’ quail country, and 90 percent of the world’s Mearns’ hunting takes place in Arizona. Surrounded by scenic mountain ranges, the pups will find the hotels dog friendly, and moderate winter temps extend through the quail hunting season. Sonoita is also close to desert grasslands (scaled quail) and desert scrub (Gambel’s quail). After your Mearns’ hunt in the oak-lined canyons, you can work toward the Triple Crown.
12. Abilene, Kansas. A gateway to the Flint Hills to the north and central Kansas to the west, the two areas in recent years that have produced the best quail hunting in the Sunflower State.
13. Eureka, South Dakota. Legend has it the town’s name stems from the first settler’s reaction to all the pheasants observed in the area – “Eureka!”
14. Wing, North Dakota. Located just northeast of Bismarck, this town’s name is a clear indication of its premiere attraction. While primarily a waterfowler’s paradise, bird hunters looking to keep their boots dry can find pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse and Huns on ample public ground.
15. Redfield, South Dakota. By law, there can only be one officially trademarked “Pheasant Capital of the World” and Redfield is the owner of that distinction . . . and for good reason!
16. Tallahassee, Florida. Home to Tall Timbers, a partner non-profit focused on quail research, this north Florida town is steeped in the quail plantation culture and quail hunting tradition.
17. Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. This fisherman’s paradise also makes for an excellent October launching off point for the bird hunter. Head south toward Fergus Falls to bag your limit of roosters, then jog northeast to find ruffed grouse and timberdoodles amongst thousands of acres of public forest lands. Point straight west and you’ll find prairie chickens in nearby Clay County if you’re lucky enough to pull a Minnesota prairie chicken permit.
18. Park Falls, Wisconsin. For more than 25 years, Park Falls has staked its claim as the “Ruffed Grouse Capital of the World.” It’s more than just proclamation – more than 5,000 acres in the area are intensively managed as ruffed grouse and woodcock habitat.
19. Iron River, Michigan. Four-season recreation is Iron County’s claim to fame, and with the nearby Ottawa National Forest, it’s no coincidence the county bills itself as the woodcock capital of the world.
20. Lander, Wyoming. Wyoming is home to about 54 percent of the greater sage-grouse in the United States, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Wyoming manages millions of publically-accessible acres.
21. Miles City, Montana. Sharp-tailed grouse are well dispersed throughout southeast Montana, and the state boasts the highest daily bag limit – four birds – in the country. Thicker cover along riparian areas also provides chances at ringnecks. Did we mention there are roughly 2.5 million acres of publicly-accessible land in this region?
22. Spirit Lake, Iowa. The many Waterfowl Production Areas and their cattails make northwest Iowa a great late-season pheasant hunting option.
23. Holyoke, Colorado. Lots of Pheasants Forever and state programs – including walk-in areas – are at work in Phillips County which has made the rural, northeast Colorado town of Holyoke the state’s shining upland star.
24. Barstow, California. San Bernardino County is a top quail producer in the state, and the vast Mojave National Preserve is the most popular destination for hunters from throughout southern California, where wingshooters can also find chukar in addition to quail.
25. Anchorage, Alaska. From the regional hub of Anchorage, bird hunters can drive or fly to excellent hunting areas in all directions, which include ptarmigan, ruffed grouse and spruce grouse. To maximize your chances and stay safe here, consider hiring a guide.
Friday, April 12th, 2013
As a wildlife enthusiast who enjoys diverse landscapes, as well as a wingshooter who’s succumbed to the addiction of hunting wild ringnecks, it’s been nothing short of tragic to witness the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) – often referred to as the “holy grail” of conservation programs – withering away the past five years.
If you’re a pheasant hunter and a conservationist, you’ve likely seen these facts before, and even so, they bear repeating. Consider that:
- In prime pheasant habitat, a 4 percent increase in CRP grassland acres was associated with a 22 percent increase in pheasant counts (source: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture).
- In 2006, Pheasants Forever estimated of the then 36 million-plus CRP acres nationwide, 25.5 million constituted in the pheasant range were responsible for producing 13.5 million pheasants annually.
Unfortunately, the U.S. has lost 9.7 million acres of CRP land in just five years and there are now just 27 million CRP acres nationwide. This mass exodus of wildlife habitat has cut right through the heart of pheasant country.
|State||2007 CRP Acreage||2013 CRP Acreage||Percent Decline|
|South Dakota||1.56 million||978,257||37 percent|
|North Dakota||3.39 million||1.79 million||54 percent|
|Kansas||3.26 million||2.37 million||27 percent|
|Minnesota||1.83 million||1.4 million||23 percent|
|Nebraska||1.34 million||895,251||33 percent|
|Iowa||1.97 million||1.53 million||22 percent|
|Montana||3.48 million||2 million||42 percent|
In two states, South Dakota and Nebraska, total CRP acreage has fallen below 1 million acres, a baseline number many biologists and hunters feel is critical to maintaining quality pheasant numbers, as CRP is so essential for pheasant production.
While another 3.3 million acres expire from the program on September 30th, we have the opportunity to cancel out that loss with a four-week general signup for the Conservation Reserve Program that begins May 20. While landowners have trended away from CRP in today’s commodity crop-rich environment, CRP remains the single most effective and widest-ranging upland habitat tool in existence. And to help end the withering, Pheasants Forever strongly urges Congress to pass a new 5-year Farm Bill that includes a strong Conservation Reserve Program.
Thursday, January 17th, 2013
The conditions for pheasant hunting on this October North Dakota day weren’t ideal, but that didn’t deter Jamie Fitterer’s Golden Retriever, “Ellie,” from going for a limit of longtails. “Wet day but she had a heck of a time!” Fitterer says.
Have your own bird dog photo you’d like to share? Email it to Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday, January 7th, 2013
Like most of you, bird hunting isn’t a hobby to me. It’s one of the biggest parts of my life. The days I spend afield influence how I view the world, current events, the future, and my own place amongst all of the above. For many folks across the pheasant range, the hunting season has ended or is nearing a snowy end in the coming days. As I reflect on my own 2012 season, three observations stick out as themes in my mind.
A Good Dog is Critical to Pheasant Hunting
After adding my second pup to the family this spring, I cannot stress enough the value of a good bird dog to pheasant hunting. I’ve blogged about ways a dogless pheasant hunter can achieve success in past posts, but increasingly I fall more toward a mentality of convincing pheasant hunters without dogs to take the plunge and get a bird dog for all the joys of pet ownership in addition to the incredible advantage a solid bird dog provides the pheasant hunter in the field.
Two isn’t Necessarily Better than One
While I may believe a bird dog is critical to pheasant hunting success, I don’t believe in “the more, the merrier” philosophy for bird dog ownership at this point. This was my first season as an owner of two bird dogs and I found it more challenging to keep track of two dogs hunting at the same time than I expected. I also found my two dogs to compete against each other in the field more than I’d hoped, which led to many more bumped birds than when I hunted the dogs independently. Consequently, I hunted the pups separately more often this season than I would have ever imagined. There are two clear advantages to multi-dog ownership I did observe a) the ability to keep both dogs fresh on multi-day hunts by rotating them throughout trips and b) older dogs teach young dogs an incredible amount – both good & bad – that helps accelerate the training process.
The Autumn Cattail Sloughs Disappeared from the Landscape
As vivid as if it were 10 minutes ago, I can close my eyes and spin a 360 degree circle recalling my November visit to South Dakota and North Dakota during this year’s Rooster Road Trip. A plume of smoke there, a plume of smoke there, a plume of smoke there, a gigantic plume of smoke over there and another plume of smoke over there. The summer drought of 2012 transitioned into the fall of fire as tens of thousands of acres of critical winter cover cattail sloughs were burn and prepped for spring crops. If the winter of 2013 becomes harsh, the pheasants that called those cattail sloughs their winter homes will freeze to death by the tens of thousands. If it’s a wet spring, crop insurance will come into play on those acres. Either way, the inevitable future declines in pheasant and duck numbers, increasing severity of coming spring floods and deteriorating quality of our water supply will all be traced back to cattail fires of the autumn of 2012.
Friday, January 4th, 2013
As I contemplate my recreational options for the first weekend in January, my pheasant hunting choices are rapidly disappearing. Pheasant hunting in my home state of Minnesota closed on New Year’s Day not to reopen till mid-October; ten long months away. So now what do I do with my weekends?
Although Kansas and Nebraska have provided excellent January destinations for me in the past, I don’t have the time available this year to make those trips from my Minnesota home.
Both South Dakota and North Dakota’s seasons extend through Sunday, while Iowa’s continues through the 10th of January, so this trio of states does indeed provide a more manageable option from Minnesota.
Local game farm hunt clubs also provide a closer, yet pricier, alternative to run my pair of shorthairs and shoulder the scattergun. While the hunting isn’t near as challenging as a wild bird adventure, my dogs delight in January and February days filled with a nose full of pheasant at the local hunt club.
The reality of my situation is one we all confront this time of year, the winding down of pheasant season and the ten month wait for another opening day.
What do you do when your state’s pheasant hunting closes for the year? Do you travel to a different state, hit the game farm, find a friend with a beagle to chase rabbits or drill a hole in the ice and go fishing?
Wednesday, December 12th, 2012
Like much of the Upper Midwest, North Dakota is now coated in snow, the weather game changer pheasant hunters in this dry year have been waiting for. North Dakota’s pheasant season closes January 6, 2013.
Here with on-the-ground hunting and habitat reports are Pheasants Forever staff members in North Dakota:
Hunting has been fairly consistent for me out here in southwestern North Dakota, I have been able to keep the freezer stocked and there always seems to be plenty of birds to chase around. Many roosters have been educated by poorly placed shots throughout the hunting season, which has made them more aware of the danger of dogs and humans. With the high winds and low temperatures recently, I have found birds grouping up in brush and tree thickets, lowland areas or river bottoms adjacent to their favorite food source. Untilled crop fields and food plots are good target areas for midday, but heavy roosting cover is the first and last place to hunt in my book. There are still more than three weeks to get out and do some walking. I plan to dress warm and send my dog straight into the wind for a better chance at sneaking up on some mature, late season roosters.
-Matt Flintrop, Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist, Pheasants Forever – Dickinson
I’ve been trying to get in at least one hunt a week during the late season. Most of the area that I hunt has lost significant amounts of cover and pheasants have been few and far between. Winter habitat conditions are poor with cattail sloughs being burned off (more everyday) or mowed. CRP has been hayed, and those acres that expired are already being prepped for planting next spring. The area had some snow fall (nothing significant) this past weekend, so that may push more birds out of the grass and into thicker cover. When I do come across birds, they are flighty and often times bust out of fields or sloughs well out of gun range. I’m seeing some hens around, which is encouraging compared to what I saw last year. I am also seeing more young birds being harvested compared to last year. However, with current habitat conditions, my fingers are crossed for a mild North Dakota winter. I was fortunate to hunt a large block of land this past weekend with some friends. The area we hunted has been managed for wildlife and we saw plenty of birds around, especially compared to surrounding areas. Most of the birds still ran well ahead of the dogs and flushed too early, but we managed to harvest a few that were holding tight in cattail sloughs. It was a great example of “Have Habitat, Will Come.” The area was dominated by stands of big bluestem, switch grass, and block shrub plantings. Cattail sloughs dotted the area and food plots were present.
-Rachel Bush, Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist, Pheasants Forever - Jamestown
We just got our first big snow of the winter this weekend down here in the southeast corner of North Dakota, and it looks like it will be here to stay. This is bad news if you haven’t gotten your snow blower ready, but good news if you haven’t put your hunting gear away. For the last month, the birds have been flushing out of range, making it difficult to get one in the bag. Now that there is a coating of snow on the ground, roosters generally will hold a little tighter. A couple of tips I would give for hunting in this area this time of year is to focus on the cattails in larger tracts of CRP and try to hunt on days when there is a light, wet snow coming down.
-Matthew Olson, Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist, Pheasants Forever – Forman
Have you been pheasant hunting in North Dakota this year? If so, post your own report in the comments section below.
Wednesday, October 10th, 2012
A group of my friends were recently debating the weekend’s hunting itinerary. Although Saturday is the pheasant opener in Minnesota, North Dakota & South Dakota (resident only on public land), these lost souls were contemplating the merits of spending the morning in a duck slough followed by a walk through the grouse woods. One guy even mentioned the possibility of attending a college football match instead. My jaw dropped as these avid bird hunters seriously contemplated skipping what is likely to be an awesome opening weekend of pheasant hunting.
I took a deep breath and began the process of convincing them to lace up their boots and hit the pheasant fields for the opener. Here are the five reasons for my enthusiasm around this year’s pheasant opener.
1) Mild Winter Weather. Pheasant country was blessed with less-than-average snowfall which resulted in excellent carryover of adult birds into spring. These favorable conditions were particularly beneficial to hens entering the reproductive cycle in healthy, strong shape. The equation is simple; the healthier the hen population, the higher the rate of nesting success.
2) An Early Spring. The spring of 2012 featured good nesting conditions for pheasants with warm weather and enough moisture to green things up to produce nesting habitat and insect production (chick’s primary food). Cold snaps and heavy rains are the concerns, which were relatively minimal during the spring of 2012. While the summer’s severe drought certainly hurt what could have been a big boost in pheasant numbers, most states have forecasted modest jumps in pheasant populations and these inclines are largely due to gains in spring reproduction.
3) Crops. Traditionally, pheasants on the opener find safe haven from hunters in standing rows of corn and soybeans. This year, due in large part to the drought across most of America’s heartland, more than half the corn and bean crops were already harvested by the beginning of October. With the crops out, the birds will be more concentrated in the grass.
4) Gathering Storm of Habitat Loss. It’s no secret that quality habitat is the primary ingredient to producing pheasants. Unfortunately, there have been a string of worst case scenarios in the last few months for our nation’s wildlife habitat. First of all, Washington, D.C.’s politicians failed to produce a new Farm Bill, which has led to America’s most successful conservation programs being left in limbo. Secondly, more than 6.5 million acres expired from CRP enrollment on September 30th. The demands on our lands to produce food, fiber, feed stock and energy have never been higher. The loser in this struggle continues to be habitat, and ultimately wildlife. The road ahead includes a crusade for habitat that Pheasants Forever will wage from Washington, D.C. to Pierre, South Dakota; however, our road is likely to be long and our battles arduous. So, all that bad news leads me to one point: The pheasant opener is a time for celebration and carrying on our traditions before our habitat crusade ahead.
5) Pheasant Fun. Bird dogs bounding through waste high grass waving in an autumn breeze. A rooster explodes toward a robin’s egg blue sky with a cackle of color and commotion. Great grandpa’s over/under slides into your shoulder as you touch the trigger with a BANG! There is laughter and blaze orange at the end of a tailgate, followed by a pheasant feast next to a roaring fire.
The pheasant opener is truly a celebration of family, friends, food and tradition. You wouldn’t ever consider skipping Christmas morning and you shouldn’t consider skipping the pheasant opener.
Which state’s pheasant opener will you be enjoying this season?
Friday, August 31st, 2012
1. Buy a License and Use It. While pheasant numbers may not be where they were a half decade ago, there are still birds to be had. Many fair-weather pheasant hunters have chosen not to pursue ringnecks in these leaner years– combined hunter numbers in the top pheasant producing states – South Dakota, North Dakota, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa and Montana – have dropped by 20 percent since 2006. Make their loss your gain.
2. Scouting Is Critical This Year. The drought of 2012 has made its presence felt across most of pheasant country. To help agricultural producers feeling the effects, emergency haying and grazing was allowed on conservation lands and even some public land. Consequently, land you’ve hunted in the past could have undergone a transformation this year and may not hold birds. If there is a positive for bird hunters, this emergency action may condense bird numbers in some places, creating fast and furious action. Bottom line, make a few phone calls or put an extra day on the front end of a trip and get a lay of the land.
3. Hunt September. An appearance at the local trap range before pheasant hunting season should be a given, but why wait until October to chase wild birds? From doves to prairie grouse, most states have September seasons to prime your shoulder, shooting eye and pup for roosters.
4. Hunt the Late Season. The hunting pressure drops off so significantly by December in states like South Dakota that tourism officials are practically begging upland hunters to come out that time of year. A few states, including South Dakota and Kansas, even allow you to purchase licenses that time of year that will carry over into the next hunting season. It will be cold, birds will be cagy, and you and your dog will work harder than you can imagine, but it will be worth it.
5. Dog Checkup. Most vets will tell you the number one problem they see with dogs coming into their office this time of year is out-of-shape dogs. But they can’t tell you anything – good or bad – if you don’t schedule a visit and get a full checkup for your hunting buddy. Your dog(s) do most of the work, so give them some professional attention; they’ll pay it back this autumn.
6. Rotate Dogs. Chances are if you’re traveling to hunt pheasants, multiple people and multiple dogs will be involved. Rather than lining up every hunter and dog army style, consider breaking into smaller groups of two or three with one dog. After an hour or two, rotate that dog out and bring in a fresh replacement. You’ll enjoy focusing on dog work, and enjoy watching – and shooting over – fresh dogs throughout a trip.
7. Try a Silent Hunt. Every preseason pheasant hunting article mentions “going quiet “– not slamming car doors, loading guns quietly – but what about going completely silent? This tactic is best-suited for veteran pheasant hunters with veteran dogs that know the game (and are trained to hand signals), so if you fall into this category, challenge your hunting partners to walk an entire field as if you had duct tape over your mouth. You might be surprised by what you see…and hear.
8. Keep Knee Boots or Hip Waders in Your Vehicle. There’s a good chance you won’t need them, making this a list of only nine useful tips. Of course, on the one day only a crick or shallow slough stands between you and pheasant hunting glory, where do you want to be?
9. Use Pheasants Forever as a Resource. Pheasants Forever’s 2012 Pheasant Hunting Forecast will be released in early September (sign up here to receive it)…Attending a Pheasants Forever banquet helps support upland conservation and is a great way to connect with fellow pheasant hunters (find an autumn Pheasants Forever banquet here)…If you have a youngster interested in hunting, consider a Pheasants Forever Mentor Youth Hunt (Find a Pheasants Forever chapter here).
10. Become a Pheasants Forever Member. Grassland conversion has accelerated rapidly across large swaths of the pheasant range. “What’s hard to watch is to see native prairie being plowed up. It’s happening all across the Dakotas and what little we have left in western Minnesota. I’ve never seen the pressure on the landscape that’s happening right now,” says Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Government Affairs. Join Pheasants Forever’s wildlife habitat conservation mission, or if you’re already a member, upgrade your support, and ensure that upland habitat filled with pheasants is a sight that greets hunters for years to come: www.pheasantsforever.org/join
This article appears in “On the Wing,” Pheasants Forever’s monthly eNewsletter. Read more here.
Tuesday, July 10th, 2012
North Dakota’s spring pheasant crowing count survey revealed a 10 percent increase statewide compared to last year, though state wildlife officials and Pheasants Forever remain concerned about continued upland habitat loss in the state.
All four pheasant districts showed an increase compared to last year. The number of crows heard in the southeast increased by 12 percent, northwest by 8 percent, northeast by 6 percent and southwest by 4 percent.
Stan Kohn, upland game management supervisor for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, said birds did not experience excessive mortality last winter.
“Even with the nice winter last year, I anticipated fewer adult birds to be available this spring because poor production in spring of 2009-11 led to fewer young birds entering the fall population,” Kohn said. “However, I did expect to see higher crow count numbers in the southwest because good numbers of birds were observed last winter, but it didn’t pan out in the crow count numbers.”
Even with a somewhat smaller breeding class of birds, Kohn said hens were in better shape this spring because of less winter stress. In addition, he said nesting habitat looked to be in pretty good condition in all areas of the state, and nesting and brooding weather this spring has been almost ideal.
“I expect much better upland game production this summer,” Kohn added. “Pheasant hens are finding better quality nesting and brooding cover on the uplands this spring, and with the good weather, more hens were successful with first clutches, a positive sign of a good production year.”
However, Kohn noted, the loss of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) habitat – another 800,000 CRP contract acres are set to expire from the program this autumn – is going to decrease nesting and brooding cover in the future, and will negatively affect the pheasant population.
Spring crowing count data is not always a good indicator of the fall population. It does not measure population density, but provides an index of the spring rooster population based on a trend of number of crows heard. Brood surveys, which begin in mid-July and are completed by September, are a better indicator of the summer’s pheasant production and provide insight into what fall pheasant hunters can expect.
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.
Thursday, May 31st, 2012
While the date may vary slightly from the northern reaches of the pheasant range to its southern fringe, the average pheasant nest incubation start date is May 24th. The peak of the pheasant hatch follows 23 days later on approximately June 15th. The following describes recent pheasant nesting conditions, and was compiled through field reports from state natural resource agency wildlife biologists.
Colorado - Coming into spring, the overall pheasant population in Colorado was strong, and the state’s spring crow count survey should be comparable to last year’s phenomenal showing, says Ed Gorman, Small Game Manager with the Colorado Division of Wildlife. The downside is there was no winter moisture, so while there is good nesting cover, buoyed by green wheat, brood survival could be an issue due to a lack of forbs and broadleaves to generate brood cover and insect production as brood food. Gorman said the silver lining to the significant amount of CRP that’s expired from the program in Colorado is that most is being replaced as winter wheat, which serves as suitable pheasant nesting habitat for Colorado birds in the spring.
Illinois - The mild winter should have led to better pheasant survival, and though much of the pheasant range was abnormally dry in early spring, May rain events brought much of that range back to normal, reports Michael Wefer, Ag and Grassland Wildlife Program Manager with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Wefer added that a warm spring with low-to-normal rainfall bodes well for pheasant nest success where habitat remains. One habitat bright spot is the acreage enrolled in Illinois’ CRP State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement, which accounts for 6,300-plus acres in the pheasant range that are now two years old and close to being fully established as productive upland habitat.
Indiana - A good breeding summer last year and the extremely mild winter of 2011-2012 led to a big increase in Indiana’s spring pheasant crowing count, reports Budd Veverka, Farmland Game Research Biologist with the Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife. “Road routes in our primary pheasant range of Benton County exhibited a 127 percent increase over 2011 numbers, and were 88 percent higher than the 10-year average, with more modest increases observed across the rest of the range,” Veverka said. With enough rain to keep things green, Veverka feels good about the prospects of this nesting season. Indiana is also putting more funding toward habitat management at its game bird habitat areas.
Iowa - Barring increased wet and or cold temps through mid-June, Iowa may finally see an increase in bird numbers after five lousy years, reports Todd Bogenschutz, Upland Wildlife Research Biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. In examining recent trends, Bogenshutz says this year is shaping up much like 2003, when Iowa saw a 42 percent increase in its overall pheasant count. The northwest and north-central regions of Iowa had the highest average counts last year and thus are the region’s most likely to have the best rebounding numbers this fall.
Kansas - The state is looking at a decline in its breeding population of pheasants due to the carryover effect of last summer’s extreme drought in western Kansas. “This decline was extreme in southwest and south-central Kansas, and our spring crow counts are showing declines in those areas,” reports Dave Dahlgren, Small Game Specialist with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. Spring has brought precipitation to western Kanas, and conditions for nesting hens have been “near perfect” according to Dahlgren. Now attention turns to winter wheat conditions in western Kansas, as the crop serves as nesting habitat for pheasants. “The only concern now is the prospect of an early harvest, which could reduce nest survival at a large landscape scale. Currently the agricultural community is anticipating the wheat harvest to be at least 2 weeks earlier than normal,” Dahlgren said, adding the state could use a little more precipitation to continue the good nesting conditions and create good brooding conditions.
Michigan - The winter was abnormally mild this year and spring came early and has stayed relatively dry so far, reports Ben Wickerham, Pheasants Forever’s Michigan Regional Representative. Anecdotal reports of brood sightings in areas absent of them in recent years are a good sign.
Minnesota – The winter of 2011-12 was one of the mildest on record for Minnesota. “Pheasants were able to use grassland habitat and waste grain in harvested cropland throughout the entire winter, which is very uncommon for Minnesota. Hen survival should have been excellent during the past winter,” reports Kurt Haroldson, Assistant Regional Wildlife Manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Spring weather has been warm and dry, though a recent period of heavy rains and flooding is a concern in some locations. “If favorable weather persists, good progress should be made toward recovery from the previous devastating year (64 percent decline in pheasant counts).” Haroldson notes the significant area of concern is that nearly 300,000 acres of CRP lands will expire from the program this September.
Montana - It’s been a great spring, weather-wise, so far for Montana pheasants, reports Rick Northrup, Habitat Section Supervisor with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, though he notes more reports of former CRP lands in eastern Montana being converted for agricultural use.
Nebraska - According to the state’s April Rural Mail Carrier Survey, the statewide pheasant index was slightly higher in 2012, up 2 percent from 2011. Spring seems to be on an accelerated timetable this year in Nebraska, where there are already reports of pheasants hatching in the southern tier of the state, according to Jeff Lusk, Program Manager for Upland Game for the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission. Spring conditions have been warm and relatively dry leading into what will be the peak hatch period.
North Dakota – A very mild winter allowed North Dakota pheasants to enter spring in excellent shape, says Stan Kohn, Upland Game Management Supervisor with the North Dakota Game & Fish Department. The spring season has continued the trend, with mild rains and good nesting vegetation. Kohn notes that though the spring breeding population is lower than recent years, it is still above average. “If present spring weather conditions remain, pheasant populations will bounce back some, with the southwest probably having the best population this fall,” Kohn says. The major habitat concern is the 840,000 acres of CRP slated to leave the program in North Dakota later this year, with the biggest losses expected in the eastern part of the state.
South Dakota - Over winter survival of pheasants was excellent in South Dakota, reports Travis Runia, Senior Upland Game Biologist with the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks. The mild winter weather trend continued into spring as above normal temperatures and normal precipitation prevailed over much of the pheasant belt. “Adequate moisture existed to prompt good growth of cool season grasses used by nesting pheasants. So far, weather has been favorable for nesting pheasants,” Runia said. Of more concern than the weather is the continued loss of upland nesting cover in “The Pheasant Capital.” “CRP grassland acreage has declined by 400,000 acres since 2007 and 225,000 of the existing 1.1 million acres are scheduled to expire this fall,” Runia said. In addition to the loss of CRP acres, the conversion of grazing lands to cropland has reduced available nesting cover by approximately another 3 million acres since 1985.
Oregon - Conditions in Oregon are shaping up more favorably than the past two years, says Dave Budeau, Upland Game Bird Coordinator with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “This year we had good moisture in March and the first part of April with current May conditions dry and above average temps. If this pattern holds through the peak hatching period over the next few weeks we could be in good shape for upland game bird production,” Budeau says.
Utah – The adult breeding population of pheasants in Utah is holding steady, but the spring has been very hot which could translate into lower nesting success, this according to Jason Robinson, Upland Game Coordinator with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
Wisconsin - One of the state’s mildest winters on record certainly helped pheasant survival – a much needed reprieve from the previous severe winters. Anecdotal reports from state biologists indicate an increase in the number of crowing roosters this spring, including at the state Department of Natural Resources’ Glacial Habitat Restoration Area in east-central Wisconsin, and nesting season weather has been favorable, says Doug Fendry, Pheasants Forever Regional Wildlife Biologist in Wisconsin.