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.
Anthony’s Antics Afield is written by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.