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Annual roadside survey shows increase in North Dakota pheasant, partridge numbers but fewer sharptails

The best pheasant counts were in the northwest, where observers counted 11 broods and 96 pheasants per 100 miles, up from eight broods and 68 pheasants in 2021. Average brood size was six.

ND pheasant broods.jpg
North Dakota pheasant broods are up 8% statewide from 2021, and total pheasant numbers are up 9%, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department said Friday, Sept. 9, 2022, in reporting results from annual summer roadside surveys.
Contributed/North Dakota Game and Fish Department
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BISMARCK – North Dakota pheasant and gray partridge numbers were up from last year, while sharp-tailed grouse were down, the Game and Fish Department said Friday, Sept. 9, in reporting results from its annual roadside surveys conducted in late July and August.

The late summer upland game counts showed mixed results, said Jesse Kolar, upland game supervisor for Game and Fish in Dickinson, N.D.

“We observed an increase in pheasant and partridge densities and reproductive rates with average brood size and age ratios, while sharptails decreased in density but had improved reproductive rates from 2021,” Kolar said.

Total pheasants observed, at 49 per 100 survey miles, are up 9% from last year, and broods are up 8% at 5.3 per 100 miles. The average brood size of 6.2 is up 7%, the department said. The final summary is based on 278 survey runs made along 100 brood routes across North Dakota.

Here’s a closer look by region in the state’s primary pheasant range.

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  • Northwest: Observers counted 11 broods and 96 pheasants per 100 miles, up from eight broods and 68 pheasants in 2021. Average brood size was six.
  • Southeast: Five broods and 39 pheasants per 100 miles, up from three broods and 24 pheasants in 2021. Average brood size was five.
  • Southwest: Five broods and 48 pheasants per 100 miles, down from six broods and 59 pheasants in 2021. Average brood size was five chicks.
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The northeast district, generally containing secondary pheasant habitat with lower pheasant numbers compared with the rest of the state, showed two broods and 18 pheasants per 100 miles, compared with three broods and 24 pheasants last year. Average brood size was seven.

North Dakota’s grouse and partridge season opened Saturday, Sept. 10, and Kolar said sharptail hunters should expect to find more hatch-year grouse this fall.

“The rangeland vegetation is significantly taller, and there will be many more areas to search to find grouse,” Kolar said. “However, we have not had significant amounts of precipitation since mid-July, upland rangelands may not be as productive as hillsides or low-lying riparian areas, particularly if the fall remains hot. Although the densities were highest in the southwest, the relative trends remain highest in the prairie potholes along the Missouri River.”

The roadside survey tallied a 30% reduction in statewide sharptail counts per 100 miles. Brood survey results show observers recorded two sharptail broods and 13 sharptails per 100 miles. Average brood size was six.

Generally, Kolar said, most of the partridge harvest is incidental while hunters pursue grouse or pheasants. But this year, with partridge numbers looking impressive, he said there may be pockets where hunters could focus primarily on partridge.

“Huns have rebounded, and the last time they were this good was in 2015,” Kolar said.

Partridge observed per 100 miles are up 46%. Observers recorded one partridge brood and 12 partridge per 100 miles. Average brood size was 10.

The grouse and partridge seasons continue through Jan. 1, 2023.

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North Dakota’s pheasant season opens Oct. 8 and continues through Jan. 1. The two-day youth pheasant hunting weekend, when legally licensed residents and nonresidents 15 and younger can hunt statewide, is set for Oct. 1-2.

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