North Dakota’s spring pheasant population index is up 15% from the same time last year, the state Game and Fish Department reported Monday in announcing results from its 2020 spring crowing count survey.

The number of roosters heard crowing this spring was up statewide, with increases ranging from 1% to 18% in the primary regions holding pheasants, said R.J. Gross, upland game management biologist for Game and Fish in Bismarck.

“We entered spring with a larger breeding population compared to last year,” Gross said. “Hens should be in good physical shape for nesting season, and cover should be plentiful from the residual moisture left from last fall.”

RJ Gross, upland game biologist, North Dakota Game and Fish Department. (N.D. Game and Fish Department photo)
RJ Gross, upland game biologist, North Dakota Game and Fish Department. (N.D. Game and Fish Department photo)

However, Gross said there is concern with drought conditions in the western part of the state, and whether insects will be available to chicks for brood rearing.

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“I am hopeful for above-average chick survival due to the lush cover and predicted warm temperatures, but we can use some rain,” Gross said. “But we don’t want any severe weather events.”

While the spring number is an indicator, Gross said it does not predict what the fall population will look like. Brood surveys, which begin in late July and are completed by September, provide a much better estimate of summer pheasant production and what hunters might expect for a fall pheasant population.

Game and Fish conducts pheasant crowing counts each spring throughout North Dakota. Observers drive specified 20-mile routes, stop at predetermined intervals and count the number of pheasant roosters heard crowing over a 2-minute period during the stop.

The number of pheasant crows they hear then is compared with the previous year’s data, providing a trend summary.