Pheasant, Sharptail, Partridge Numbers Down in North Dakota

Poor spring production leads to less birds as fall seasons approach

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

By Mark Carter

Hunters flock to North Dakota each year for the upland birds, but state wildlife officials are reporting that a dry spring has resulted in lower numbers of pheasant, sharp-tailed grouse and Hungarian partridge.

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department's annual roadside pheasant survey conducted in late July and August indicated total birds and number of broods are down statewide from 2016 with the average brood size down 19 percent. Similar surveys for sharptails and partridge revealed similar results: sharptails observed per 100 miles are down 29 percent from 2016 and partridge are down 62 percent.

R.J. Gross, upland game management biologist for NDGFD, said the final pheasant summary is based on 279 survey runs made along 103 brood routes across North Dakota.

“Brood data suggests very poor production this spring when compared to 2016, which results in less young birds added to the fall population,” he said. “The majority of the state was in extreme drought conditions during critical times for pheasant chicks. This resulted in poor nesting/brood habitat and more than likely a less than ideal insect hatch.”

Sharptails and partridge also will be more difficult to find, Gross said.

Pheasants, along with sharptails and partridge, are expected to be harder to find this fall in North Dakota. (North Dakota Tourism)

“Hunting will be slower than last season in most of the state, and all indications are that hunters will see significantly lower numbers statewide,” Gross said. “There will be localized areas of good hunting opportunities, but in general hunting will be fair at best.”

Observers recorded 1.4 sharptail broods and 13.3 birds per 100 miles with an average brood size of 4.9, according to NDGFD. For partridge, observers recorded 0.3 broods and 4.1 birds per 100 miles with an average brood size of 9.3.

The regular pheasant season opens October 7 in North Dakota and continues through January 7. The annual two-day youth pheasant hunting weekend, when legally licensed residents and non-residents ages 15 and younger can hunt statewide, is set for September 30 and October 1.

Grouse and partridge seasons open September 9 and run through January 7.

NDGFD broke down the pheasant numbers, revealing a uniform drop in birds across the state:

  • Southwest: Total pheasants down 59 percent and broods observed down 60 percent from 2016. Observers counted eight broods and 68 birds per 100 survey miles. The average brood size was 4.3.
  • Southeast: Birds down 60 percent and the number of broods down 70 percent. Observers counted two broods and 24 birds per 100 miles with an average brood size of 4.7.
  • Northwest: Down 72 percent from last year with broods are down 76 percent. Observers recorded three broods and 24 birds per 100 mileswith an average brood size of 5.2.
  • Northeast: Generally containing secondary pheasant habitat with much of it lacking good winter cover, one brood recorded and six birds per 100 miles. Average brood size was 3.5. Number of birds observed was down 54 percent, and the number of broods recorded was down 63 percent.

Though numbers may be down this year, North Dakota officials don't want to discourage hunters from hitting the fields. North Dakota Tourism compiled a list of the top five spots to hunt pheasants in the state, starting with the "Pheasant Hunting Capitol of the Nation," Mott.