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OUTDOOR NOTES: N.D. pheasant harvest declines

Fewer pheasant huntrers went afield last fall in North Dakota, and the reduction contributed to a 27 percent decline in the state's pheasant harvest, the Game and Fish Department reports. photo by Craig Bihrle,ND Game and Fish

N.D. pheasant harvest declines

No surprise, perhaps, but pheasant hunters in North Dakota shot fewer birds last year than in 2012, the state Game and Fish Department reports.

Hunter numbers were down, and the average number of birds each hunter shot declined.

Last year, more than 76,000 hunters (down 11 percent) shot 447,000 roosters (down 27 percent). In 2012, nearly 86,000 hunters took 616,000 roosters.

Birds bagged per hunter decreased from 7.2 to 5.8, and each hunter spent an average of 4.8 days afield.

Counties with the highest percentage of pheasants taken by resident hunters in 2013 were Hettinger, 9.6; Burleigh, 7.9; McLean, 7.9; Morton, 6.8; and Stark, 5.5.

Top counties for nonresident hunters were Hettinger, 24.8 percent; Bowman, 12.2; Divide, 5.7; Emmons, 4.8; and Adams, 4.

Annual pheasant season statistics are determined by a mail survey of resident and nonresident hunters.

Pheasant crowing counts were up this spring in North Dakota, but results from summer brood count surveys will paint a better picture of what hunters can expect this fall. Game and Fish will release its brood count findings in the next few weeks.

— Herald staff report

DNR: Minnesota bird hunters decline

Fewer game bird hunters took to Minnesota’s fields and forests last fall, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reported in its annual small game survey.

In 2013, 62,100 pheasant hunters went afield in Minnesota, a decrease of 19 percent from 2012. An estimated 77,900 people hunted ducks, the DNR said, a 5 percent drop from 2012. Ruffed grouse hunter numbers were estimated at 81,100, a decrease of 11 percent from 2012.

Statewide estimates show small game hunters shot about 169,100 pheasants, 782,800 ducks and 288,400 ruffed grouse last year, with margins of error between 5 percent and 6 percent.

Despite fewer hunters, individual hunter success rates were comparable to 2012. Pheasant hunters shot an average of 2.7 pheasants in 2013 compared to 3.3 pheasants in 2012. Duck hunters shot an average of 10.2 ducks in 2013 compared to 9.1 in 2012. Ruffed grouse hunters bagged an average of 3.6 grouse in 2013 compared to 3.7 in 2012.

The DNR annually surveys small game hunters to make estimates of both hunter numbers and harvest trends. For the 2013 season, 7,000 small game license buyers were surveyed, and 3,589 surveys were returned and usable.

The complete report is online at

— Minnesota DNR

S.D. reports jump in pheasant counts

Pheasant brood counts in South Dakota increased 76 percent this year after a significant drop last year, the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department reported Tuesday. This year’s survey tallied 2.68 pheasants per mile, up from 1.52 last year.

GF&P conducts the survey by counting pheasants along a series of 30-mile routes across the state. The pheasants-per-mile index increased in all 13 of the areas surveyed during the count, with the largest increases observed in Chamberlain, Pierre and Yankton.

“My first reaction is that I’m going to be thrilled by it as a bird hunter,” said Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever’s president of governmental affairs. “But I’m quickly going to temper that with what’s going on long term here in the state.”

The success of South Dakota’s pheasant population in the long term will require a focus on the restoration and enhancement of the species’ habitat, Nomsen said.

Last year, GF&P said the number of pheasants spotted during the count dropped 64 percent from 2012. The decline was the second largest in the history of the count, which dates to 1949. Part of the blame for the drop was placed on the high demand on farmers to use more land for crops, often resulting in the destruction of grassland that serves as valuable habitat for pheasants.

Travis Runia, GF&P’s lead pheasant biologist, said favorable weather this past winter and spring set the stage for the increase seen in the latest brood count.

Despite the increase, this year’s pheasant-per-mile index is still well below the 10-year average of 5.75, according to the GF&P’s report.

“Without a boost in habitat, it’s going to be pretty difficult to get back up to those levels,” Runia said.

— Forum News Service

DNR sets meetings on fishing regs

A review of walleye regulations on Lake Winnibigoshish is just one of the topics set for discussion during a series of 13 public meetings the DNR has scheduled across Minnesota in the coming weeks.

Two of the meetings are scheduled for Beltrami and Hubbard counties. Here’s what’s on tap:

  •  Beltrami County: The existing bag limit on bluegills in Pimushe Lake will be reviewed at 7 p.m. Sept. 23 at Northwest Technical College, 905 Grant Ave. SE, Bemidji.
  •  Hubbard County: A review of the existing crappie regulation in Big Mantrap Lake and a review of a proposal for a bass slot limit for Lake George will be discussed from 7 to 9 p.m. Sept. 18 in the community meeting room at Northwoods Bank in Park Rapids, Minn.

The walleye slot limit on Lake Winnibigoshish will be discussed at an October meeting in Itasca County, time and date to be determined.


— Minnesota DNR

DNR: Don’t shoot radio-collared bears

The DNR again this fall is asking hunters not to shoot radio-collared bears when the state’s bear season opens Monday.

Some of the bears are marked with large, colorful ear tags, and many of the collars have GPS units that collect and store data researchers download when they visit the bears in their dens.

“We’re asking that if hunters see ear tags or a collar on a bear, they refrain from shooting it,” said Dave Garshelis, DNR bear research biologist. “Long-term records of individual bears have been the cornerstone of information that helps the DNR monitor and manage the bear population.”

DNR researchers are monitoring about 20 radio-collared black bears in areas including northwest Minnesota, especially near Thief Lake Wildlife Management Area and Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge. Additional radio-collared bears that may be the subject of non-DNR research reside in and around the Chippewa National Forest, Camp Ripley, Cloquet Forestry Station, Voyageurs National Park and the Tower area in northeast Minnesota.

“Hunters near these areas should be especially watchful for these radio-collared bears,” Garshelis said. “Researchers have invested an enormous amount of time and expense in these individuals.”

Photos of some collared research bears are available on the DNR’s bear Web page at

DNR officials recognize that a hunter may not be able to see a radio collar or ear tags in some situations. As a result, taking a bear with a radio collar is legal.

Hunters who shoot a collared bear should call the DNR wildlife research office in Grand Rapids, Minn., at (218) 327-4146 or (218) 327-4133.

— Minnesota DNR

DNR offers update on deer goal process

The DNR has unveiled preliminary details of its 2015 deer population goal-setting process on the DNR website at

“Working with citizens to achieve conservation and management goals is integral to the mission of the DNR,” Leslie McInenly, DNR big game program leader, said in a news release. “To make sure that goals are based on the broad range of public interest in deer, we use a public process to help determine how many deer to manage for in a given area.”

The DNR will set deer population for 40 of Minnesota’s 128 deer permit areas during the upcoming process, which formally kicks off in October when nominations open for advisory team members, and concludes in May 2015 with the announcement of final goals. Large portions of northeast, north-central and east-central Minnesota will be affected.

Goals for northwest Minnesota and other permit areas not included in the upcoming effort will be set in 2016.

Areas selected for 2015 are:

  •  Area 1: Superior Uplands Arrowhead, which include permit areas 117, 122, 126, 127, 180.
  •  Area 2: North Central Plains Moraines, which include permit areas 169, 172, 184, 197, 210, 298.
  •  Area 3: Pine Moraines, which include permit areas 241, 242, 246, 248, 251, 258, 259, 287.
  •  Area 4: East Central Uplands, which include permit areas 152, 155, 156, 157, 159, 183, 221, 222, 225, 247, 259.
  •  Area 5: Sand Plain-Big Woods, which include permit areas 223, 224, 227, 229, 235, 236, 249, 285, 338, 339.

There will be opportunities for broad public input through public meetings as well as online and written questionnaires before convening a citizen advisory team for each area. The DNR also is collecting representative data on public desires using hunter and landowner mail surveys administered by the University of Minnesota.

This is the third year the DNR has worked with citizens to reassess and re-establish deer population goals in Minnesota. Goals for southwest and a portion of northern Minnesota were set in 2012. Goals for southeast Minnesota were set last year.


— Minnesota DNR

Did you know?

  •  Thursday is the deadline to apply for Minnesota’s antlerless deer and wolf season lotteries. Tighter deer regulations this fall mean more permit areas will be in the lottery classification for antlerless permits this year. Info:,
  •  Minnesota’s 2014 Waterfowl Hunting Regulations handbook now is available wherever hunting and fishing licenses are sold, online at and in DNR wildlife offices across the state. Minnesota’s waterfowl season will open a half-hour before sunrise Sept. 27. Sandhill crane season begins Sept. 13 and continues through Oct. 19 in the northwest goose and sandhill crane zone only. The daily bag limit will be one sandhill crane per day. A $3 sandhill crane permit is required in addition to a small game hunting license. Info:
  •  The Minnesota DNR will release its annual roadside wildlife survey Sept. 8. The report summarizes roadside counts of pheasants, gray (Hungarian) partridge, cottontail rabbits, white-tailed jackrabbits and other wildlife observed in the early morning hours during the first two weeks of August. The observations take place throughout the farmland region of Minnesota. Observers surveyed 171 25-mile routes, 152 of which were located in pheasant range.
  •  The DNR State Forest Nursery is accepting seedling orders for April and May pickup or delivery in 2015. A minimum of 500 seedlings must be ordered, which is enough seedlings to cover an acre of land. Seedlings vary in size from 6 to 18 inches in height, and prices start as low as $125 for 500 seedlings. Info: or (800) 657-3767.
  •  The DNR will auction confiscated hunting equipment beginning at 10 a.m. Sept. 20 at Hiller Auction Service, 10785 261st Ave., Zimmerman, Minn. A list of firearms and bows for sale is on the auction website at
  •  The DNR’s Parks and Trails Legacy Grant Program is seeking applications by Sept. 26 for park and trail projects across Minnesota. Eligible projects include acquisition, development, improvement and restoration of park- or trail-related facilities of regional or statewide significance outside the metropolitan area. Counties, cities and townships are eligible to apply. Info:
Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken is editor of the Herald's Northland Outdoors section and also works as a copy editor and page designer. Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and joined the Herald staff in 1989. He worked as a copy editor in the features and news departments before becoming outdoors editor in 1998. He also writes a blog called Compass Points. A Roseau, Minn., native, Dokken is a graduate of Bemidji State University. 

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