Bird Dog & Retriever News

October / November 2017 issue page 15

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Roadside survey data
The DNR's August roadside survey for pheasants showed a 26 percent decrease in the overall pheasant index from 2016. This year's statewide pheasant index was 38.1 birds per 100 miles of roads driven.
All regions had declines in the pheasant index compared to last year except the south-central and southeast regions, which remained similar. The highest pheasant counts were in the west central, southwest, and south-central regions where observers reported 43 to 55 birds per 100 miles driven. Hunters should find the best hunting opportunities in these regions.
Minnesota's 2017 pheasant season runs from Saturday, Oct. 14, through Monday, Jan. 1.
Pheasants and grassland habitat
Weather and habitat are the two main factors that drive Minnesota's pheasant population trends. Although weather causes annual fluctuations in pheasant numbers, nesting habitat is more important for long-term trends. Minnesota peaked in nesting habitat acres, particularly CRP, in 2007 but has been experiencing a steady decline annually. The pheasant index and pheasant harvest have declined in response to these habitat losses.
The 2012 version of the Farm Bill called for reduced spending on CRP and a cap of 24 million acres nationwide. The Farm Bill is due to be renewed in 2018, and many conservation groups are asking for enough funding to support 40 million acres of CRP.
The DNR and Minnesota conservation community also are advocating for a Working Lands program associated with CRP that allows grazing and haying of some acres under a conservation plan; and increased state input in determining where those acres should go to achieve the greatest benefits for landowners, wildlife, pollinators and clean water.
Weather conditions and survival
Warm winters usually lead to good hen survival and therefore more nests in the spring; however, the 2017 hen index, at 5.8 hens per 100 miles, was also down 26 percent from last year.
"It's surprising to see our hen index down this year," Davros said. "We experienced a pretty mild winter so hen survival should have been good. But the amount of habitat on the landscape makes the difference in the long run, so we may be at the point that good weather just isn't enough to help us anymore."
Another key indicator of annual reproduction is the number of broods observed during roadside surveys. The 2017 brood index decreased 34 percent from last year, and the number of broods per 100 hens declined 10 percent from 2016.
Monitoring pheasant population trends is part of the DNR's annual August roadside wildlife survey, which began in 1955. DNR wildlife managers and conservation officers in the farmland region of Minnesota conduct the survey during the first half of August. This year's survey consisted of 171 25-mile-long routes, with 151 routes located in the pheasant range.
Observers drive each route in early morning and record the number and species of wildlife they see. The data provide an index of relative abundance and are used to monitor annual changes and long-term population trends of pheasants, gray (Hungarian) partridge, eastern cottontail rabbits, white-tailed jackrabbits, mourning doves and other wildlife.
The 2017 August Roadside Survey report and a map of pheasant hunting prospects are available at Also recorded in this year's survey:
The gray partridge index decreased 63 percent from 2016 and was 60 percent below the 10-year average and 90 percent below the long-term average.
The mourning dove index decreased 6 percent from 2016 and remained below the 10-year average and long-term averages.
During the 2017 pheasant season, the daily bag limit is two roosters through November, and it increases to three roosters on Friday, Dec. 1. The possession limit is six roosters (increasing to nine roosters on Dec. 1). Shooting hours are 9 a.m. to sunset. Additional details are available at
Small game hunter survey results released
Fewer small game hunters took to the field in 2016 as compared to the previous season. By species, grouse hunters were up slightly, but duck, goose and pheasant hunters were down slightly, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' annual small game survey. 
There were 67,301 duck hunters in 2016, fewer than the previous year, which led to a decline in the duck harvest from 663,811 in 2015 to 606,458 but the take per active hunter was up slightly in 2016 (9.0 ducks per hunter compared to 8.7 ducks per hunter in 2015).
Canada goose harvest edged up slightly to an estimated 204,825 geese harvested despite the decline in hunters from 45,938 in 2015 to 40,950 in 2016. Estimated take per hunter increased from 5.7 to 7.1 geese per successful hunters.
An estimated 59,965 pheasant hunters went afield in 2016, down slightly from 2015. Estimated ring-necked pheasant harvest declined from 243,176 roosters to 196,141, similar to 2011 levels.  A wet fall and standing corn throughout much of the pheasant range likely contributed to some of the reduced harvest.
In 2016, the number of grouse hunters was 82,348, representing an increase of 4 percent from 2015. Ruffed grouse harvest increased slightly from 267,997 grouse in 2015 to 308,955 in 2016.
The DNR annually surveys small game hunters to make estimates of both hunter numbers and harvest trends. For the 2016 season, 7,000 small game license buyers were surveyed of which 3,371 surveys were returned and usable.
Dig into this year's upland game bird program access guide
To get started, hunters can refer to the Projects Access Guide, published annually by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks' Upland Game Bird Enhancement Program. The guide includes project maps that depict boundaries of private lands enrolled in the UGBEP. Once hunters have obtained the landowner's permission to hunt, the maps with access boundaries can be an invaluable tool for hunters to locate UGBEP project areas.
The UGBEP Projects Access Guide also contains information on habitat enhancement work done on public lands, Open Fields, pheasant release sites, and the method used to obtain permission in order to hunt upland game birds.
Project maps have been created with "georeferenced capabilities," a fancy way of saying hunters can download the maps from the FWP website to most smartphones and tablets. Once loaded on a device, georeferenced maps allow hunters to dynamically view their position on the map relative to important features such as roads and access boundaries.
While no internet connection or cellphone coverage is required to view the maps, a free third-party app of the user's choice is needed for the maps to kick into georeferenced mode. Go to any online app store and search for "georeferenced PDF viewers". There are several free options available.
Hunters can find the new guide and the maps online at Click Upland Game Bird Access Guide.


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Copyrights Bird Dog & Retriever News November 2017
Do not reproduce or retransmit in any form, and we surf the web, we'll find you.
Maintained by Dennis Guldan e-mail
Bird Dog & Retriever News, PO Box 120089, New Brighton, MN 55112,
Phone 612-868-9169 Adv deadline 1st of the month prior to the issue.