Friday, September 20, 2019

Kansas’ 2019 Upland Bird Hunting Prospects Are Good

PRATT – Surveys are complete, data is in, and the 2019 Kansas Upland Bird Hunting Forecast is ready for viewing. The highly-anticipated annual forecast predicts what pheasant, quail and prairie chicken hunters can likely expect going into the new seasons. Based on this year’s crow counts for pheasants, whistle counts for quail, and lek counts for prairie chickens, overall upland bird hunting prospects are looking “good” for fall.

Pheasant hunting in Kansas should be fair to locally good this year. Heavy winter precipitation made hunting conditions tough in 2018 but provided ample soil moisture entering the 2019 nesting season. A few late winter storms raised some concern in western Kansas, but the spring crowing index remained the same as 2018, indicating there was no measurable impact on over-winter survival. Heavy rainfall continued throughout the spring and resulted in high levels of nest abandonment. However, nests that did hatch appear to have responded to the plentiful cover with relatively high chick survival, indicated by larger brood sizes. In wet years like 2019, the nesting season becomes longer, allowing for multiple re-nesting attempts. Overall, the large brood sizes, combined with production from re-nesting birds appear to have compensated for the losses from extreme spring weather.

The counts through much of central Kansas decreased while numbers farther west increased or remained similar to last year. Kansas continues to maintain one of the best pheasant populations in the country and the fall harvest should again be among the leading states.

The highest densities this year will likely be in the High Plains regions of western Kansas.

Click to read the full article and the forecast for Quail and Prairie Chicken.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

ND 2019 Pheasant, Sharptail and Partridge Numbers Up

North Dakota’s roadside surveys conducted in late July and August indicate total pheasant, sharp-tailed grouse and gray partridge numbers are up from last year.

State Game and Fish Department upland game biologist RJ Gross said the survey shows total pheasants observed per 100 miles are up 10% from last year. In addition, broods per 100 miles are up 17%, while the average brood size is down 5%. The final summary is based on 275 survey runs made along 101 brood routes across North Dakota.
“This was the first year in a while that we’ve had good residual cover to start the year, and good weather for nesting and brood-rearing,” Gross said. “In the southwest portion of the state, which is our primary pheasant district and most popular hunting area, local populations are slowly improving."
Gross said hunters should not overlook pheasant opportunities in northwest and southeast North Dakota. “Two good years of chick production should translate to more birds for hunters to pursue,” he said.
Statistics from the northwest indicate pheasants are up 49% from last year, with broods up 75%. Observers recorded five broods and 39 pheasants per 100 miles. Average brood size was six.
Results from the southeast show birds are up 32% from last year, and the number of broods up 27%. Observers counted six broods and 51 birds per 100 miles. The average brood size was six.
Statistics from southwestern North Dakota indicate total pheasants were down 7% and broods observed up 2% from 2018. For every 100 survey miles, observers counted an average of six broods and 41 pheasants. The average brood size was five chicks.
The northeast district, generally containing secondary pheasant habitat with lower pheasant numbers compared to the rest of the state, showed two broods and 15 pheasants per 100 miles. Average brood size was four.
Sharptails observed per 100 miles are up 113% statewide from 2018, and partridge are up 58%.
Upland game management supervisor Jesse Kolar said sharptail numbers are still roughly 50% below 2012-15. “However, we observed slight increases in all metrics this year during our surveys, especially in counties east of the Missouri River where we observed the highest numbers of grouse per 100 miles since 2013,” he said.
Brood survey results show statewide increases in number of grouse and broods observed per 100 miles, and in average brood size. Observers recorded 1.7 sharptail broods and 13.6 sharptails per 100 miles. Average brood size was five.
Although partridge numbers have shown a slight increase, Gross said the majority of the partridge harvest is incidental while hunters pursue grouse or pheasants. Partridge densities in general, he said, are too low to target. Observers recorded 0.5 partridge broods and 6.8 partridge per 100 miles. Average brood size was 10.
The 2019 regular pheasant season opens Oct. 12 and continues through Jan. 5, 2020. The two-day youth pheasant hunting weekend, when legally licensed residents and nonresidents ages 15 and younger can hunt statewide, is set for Oct. 5-6.
The 2019 grouse and partridge seasons open Sept. 14 and continue through Jan. 5, 2020.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

South Dakota 2019 Pheasant Brood Count DOWN 17% Statewide

The statewide Pheasants Per Mile (PPM) indexfor the 2019 pheasant brood survey decreased 17% (2.47 to 2.04, 90% confidence interval = -32 to 0%)compared to 2018 (Table 1, Figure 1). This year’s index is 43%lower than the 10-year average (2019 = 2.04, 10-year average = 3.58). Fewer hens and broods were counted throughout the 110 survey routes compared to last year while the number of roosters remained nearly unchanged.Statewide, 40 of the 110 survey routes had a higher PPM than 2018. 

Adult Bird and Brood DataThe number of roosters increased 2% from last year (813 vs. 798). The number of hens decreased 21% from last year (955 vs. 1,216). Total broods counted decreased by 21% (801 vs. 1,009), while the statewide average brood size increased by 3% (6.24vs. 6.08). The average brood sizeincreased8% in the northeast and remained unchanged elsewhere(Figure 2). The statewide average brood size for 2019 (6.24) is slightly larger than the 10-year average (5.90).

Local Area2019 vs. 2018and 10-Year Average PPMThe Aberdeen, Sisseton, and Western SD local areas increased compared to 2018, but not significantly. All other local areas declined compared to 2018;the decline was significant for the Pierre, Mobridge, Huron, Mitchell, and Brookings local areas. Most local areas are significantly below the 10-year average (Table 1, Figure 3). The Yankton, Sioux Falls, Watertown, Sisseton, and Western SDlocal areas are not significantly different from the 10-year average.

 Read the full SD Game and Fish Report

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

2019 Minnesota Pheasant August Roadside Survey decreased 17% from 2018

Summary The 2019 range-wide pheasant index (37.4 birds/100 mi) decreased 17% from 2018 (45.2 birds/100 mi). The brood index and proportion of hens with broods also decreased, and estimated hatch dates were one week later than the 10-year and long-term averages. Severe late-season winter snowstorms, heavy spring rains, and resulting flooding throughout much of the core pheasant range likely impacted nesting activity during the 2019 breeding season. Grassland habitat on private, state, and federally-owned lands increased by 29,903 acres statewide since 2018. The range-wide indices for eastern cottontail rabbitsand gray partridge were similar to 2018 while the white-tailed deer and Sandhill crane indices increased from 2018. The mourning dove index decreased from 2018 and white-tailed jackrabbit observations continue to be historically low across our survey area.

Ring-necked PheasantIn 2019, the average number of pheasants observed range-wide (37.4 birds/100 mi) decreased 17% from 2018 (45.2 birds/100 mi) and was slightly lower than the 10-year average of 41.2 birds/100 mi. The index was 60% below the long-term average of 91.4 birds/100 mi (Table 3, Figure 3A). Total pheasants observed per 100 mi ranged from 8.7 birds in the Southeast agricultural region to 48.8 birds in the WestCentral region (Table 4). The change in the pheasant index from 2018 to 2019 varied greatly statewide with increases in the South Central (24%) and East Central (13%) regions while the Southwest region, a core area of Minnesota’s pheasant range, decreased 32% from 2018. The best harvest opportunities will be in the West Central and South Central regions but hunters will also find good opportunities in the Southwest and Central regions
The range-wide hen index declined slightly in 2019 (6.4 hens/100 mi) compared to 2018 (7.5 hens/100 mi) and was at the 10-year average (6.2 hens/100 mi) but still 54% below the long-term average (13.3 hens/100 mi; Table 3). The hen index ranged from 1.6 hens/100 mi in the Southeast to 9.4 hens/100 mi in the West Central region. The Southwest region saw the greatest decline (46%), while the hen indices among remaining regions were equivalent to 2018.  

The range-wide cock index (6.5 cocks/100 mi) did not change from 2018 or the 10-year average, but remained 40% below the long-term average of 10.5 cocks/100 mi (Table 3). The cock index ranged from 2.4 cocks/100 mi in the Southeast to 8.3 cocks/100 mi in the West Central region. The 2018 cock index increased in the East Central, South Central, and Southeast regions and decreased in the West Centraland Southwest regions. 

The 2019 hen-to-cock ratio (0.98) was slightly below the 2018 ratio (1.16) and still below the long-term average (1.33). The 2019 range-wide brood index (5.4 broods/100 mi) decreased modestly from 2018 (7.3 broods/100 mi; Table 3). The index was similar to the 10-year average (6.4 broods/100 mi). Still, the brood index was 56% below the long-term average (12.1 broods/100 mi). Regional brood indices declined in all regions 2019 Minnesota August Roadside Survey5 except for the South Central, where they remained relatively constant. The brood index ranged from 1.6broods/100 mi in the Southeast region to 7.2 broods/100 mi in the West Central region. The average brood size in 2019 (4.6 chicks/brood) was slightly larger compared to 2018 (4.3 chicks/brood) and equivalent to the 10-year average (4.6 chicks/brood). However, the brood size index remains below the long-term average of 5.6 chicks/brood. The median hatch date (assigned using estimated brood ages from broods observed during the survey) for pheasant broods across their range was 20 June 2019 (n = 204 broods), which was nearly a week later than 2018 (14 June) and the 10-year average (12 June; Table 3).

Declines in the brood index, the number of broods/100 hens (a measure of breeding success), and later estimated hatch dates suggest that severe winter snowstorms, heavy spring rains, and resulting flooding throughout much of the core pheasant range adversely impacted nesting activity during the 2019 breeding season. Though regional and statewide pheasant indices declined, available grassland habitatand habitat quality can help mediate the impacts of annual variation in weather on local populations. Therefore, hunters may encounter good bird numbers where habitat was unaffected by severe weather and flooding, even among regions that exhibited overall declines. Expect that birds will be more difficult to locate in areas where adjacent agricultural fields were too wet to plant and in areas where fall corn and soybean harvest is delayed.

Long term, Minnesota has experienced a gradual but steady loss of habitat, especially CRP, and the impact of these losses correlates well with an overall decline in the pheasant population and harvest since the mid-2000s (Figures 2 & 3A).

Read the full MN DNR article

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

More MN lands for pheasant hunting are available through Walk-In Access program

Beginning Sunday, Sept. 1, hunters can access nearly 30,000 acres of private land across 47 counties in western and south-central Minnesota through the Walk-In Access program.
“This program opens up new opportunities for hunters,” said Nate Mullendore, Walk-In Access program coordinator for the Department of Natural Resources. “The Walk-In Access program allows hunters to access high-quality private land, and it also makes it easier for landowners to allow that access.”
All Walk-In Access sites are shown together with public hunting land boundaries in the Minnesota DNR Recreation Compass at Digital maps for individual Walk-In Access sites, along with additional property information and updates can be found at Printed atlases can be found across the 47-county area at DNR license agents, DNR wildlife offices and county soil and water conservation district offices. Atlases are also available by calling the DNR Information Center at 888-646-6367.