By Tom Carpenter
Regionally, hunting should get a little better in North Dakota this fall. Read on for the details.
WEATHER AND CONDITIONS
"We did not have the residual cover needed for hens to nest successfully early,” reports RJ Gross, Upland Game Management Biologist with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. “However, we received timely spring rains that produced average vegetation for nesting attempts a bit later.”
“Most of the state had good production,” Gross says, “and we saw a statewide increase in average brood size. The southwestern part of the state received two severe weather events that included large hail. Undoubtedly, this had a large impact on the lower number of chicks observed in this region.”
HATCH AND BROODS
“North Dakota conducts late summer roadside counts,” says Gross. “Statewide, pheasants observed per 100 miles was down 1.9 percent. Broods observed per 100 miles was unchanged from 2017 but we had a 27% increase in average brood size.”
“The Southeast saw an increase of 63% compared to last year, which is very encouraging,” Gross says. “Most of the state, except the Southwest, saw a nice rebound from the drought of 2017. Hunters will still feel the effect from the lack of production in 2017, but will find some young roosters to add to their bag this fall.”
HABITAT AND PROGRAMS
“Habitat looks average right now,” says Gross. “However, we are still losing grassland acres to agriculture conversion, particularly row crops. This takes away valuable cover for pheasants. The new Farm Bill will be critical to pheasants everywhere, but particularly in North Dakota.”
North Dakota’s PLOTS program (Private Lands Open to Sportsmen) should produce plenty of access to hunting spots. https://gf.nd.gov/plots/guide
“The Southwest still has the most pheasants per 100 miles surveyed,” says Gross. “That said, the Southeast and Northeast had nice increases and are worth a try this fall.”
“Oliver, Dickey and Divide counties should produce decent numbers of birds for hunters,” says Gross.