Bird Dog & Retriever News
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observations from the annual mid-November waterfowl production survey.
This year's brood index came in at 3.68 broods per square mile, down 5 percent from last year. The statewide average since the survey began in 1955 is 2.59 broods per square mile. Overall brood size was up 8 percent from last year.
Migratory game bird management supervisor Mike Szymanski said production was better in the northern tier of the state, with northernmost routes experiencing increased counts over last year. "Moving south and east, fewer broods were observed than in 2016," he said.
Observers also count water areas during the summer survey, and this year's water index was 38 percent lower than last year. Due to drought conditions and sparse precipitation since snowmelt, Szymanski said summer wetland conditions are declining.
"It was already starting to dry up when we did our spring survey, and the pattern continued," Szymanski added. "It definitely affected how breeding pairs settled in the state. Temporary and seasonal wetlands were the first to be hit. Luckily, most medium-sized and larger wetlands were only starting to show stress at the time of the survey."
Game and Fish biologists will conduct a separate survey in September to assess wetland conditions heading into the waterfowl hunting seasons.
Mallards, gadwall and blue-winged teal are the top three duck species that nest in North Dakota, and together they accounted for nearly 75 percent of the broods observed in the summer survey. Mallard brood numbers were down about 13 percent from last year, gadwalls were down about 4 percent, and blue-winged teal broods were unchanged. Blue-winged teal are typically the most prevalent breeding duck in North Dakota.
In addition, pintail brood numbers were down 65 percent. However, shovelers were up 44 percent.
The Game and Fish summer duck brood survey involves 18 routes that cover all sectors of the state, except west and south of the Missouri River. Biologists count and classify duck broods and water areas within 220 yards on each side of the road.
The survey started in the mid-1950s, and all routes used today have been in place since 1965.
Spring Pheasant Count Down from Last Year
North Dakota's spring pheasant population index is down 14 percent from last year, according to the State Game and Fish Department's 2017 spring crowing count survey.
R.J. Gross, upland game management biologist, said the number of roosters heard crowing this spring was down statewide, with decreases ranging from 6 to 10 percent in the primary regions holding pheasants.
"December and January provided a rough start to winter, with record snowfall and extremely cold temperatures making it less than ideal for all wildlife," Gross said. "In addition, last year's production was below average, so we entered this spring with a lower than average number of adult upland birds."
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 November and are completed by September, provide a much better estimate of summer pheasant production and what hunters might expect for a fall pheasant population.
"Currently, we have many pheasant broods starting to show up around the countryside," Gross said. "I am hopeful production on all our upland game birds this summer will be average."
Pheasant crowing counts are conducted each spring throughout North Dakota. Observers drive specified 20-mile routes, stopping at predetermined intervals, and counting the number of pheasant roosters heard crowing over a two-minute period during the stop.
The number of pheasant crows heard is compared to previous years' data, providing a trend summary.
2017 PHEASANT BROOD SURVEY RESULTS ARE IN
The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) has completed the annual pheasant brood survey and the results show a significant decrease in the statewide pheasants-per-mile (PPM) index from 2016. The 2017 statewide PPM index is 1.68, down from last year's index of 3.05.
"While this news is disappointing, it is not unexpected," stated Kelly Hepler, GFP department secretary. "The difficult winter weather and subsequent drought conditions in various parts of the state will result in hunters having to work harder at trying to take home their daily limit. Even with these conditions, the pheasant hunting opportunities in South Dakota continue to be the best in the country."
From late November through mid-August, GFP surveyed 110, thirty-mile routes across the state's pheasant range to estimate pheasant production and calculate the PPM index. The survey is not a population estimate, but rather compares the number of pheasants observed on the routes and establishes trend information. Survey routes are grouped into 13 areas, based on a local city, and the index value of each local city area is then compared to index values of the previous year and the 10-year average.
"Weather conditions and available habitat are key factors contributing to pheasant numbers. We have to remember that over 80 percent of South Dakota experienced some level of drought by mid-November. During very severe drought conditions, pheasant nesting success and chick survival can be reduced due to less cover and a reduction in insects for chicks to feed on," stated Hepler.
This year, over 8,000 new acres have been enrolled in the Walk-In Area hunting access program within the pheasant range; providing additional places to hunt. This adds to over 1 million acres of existing publicly owned and privately leased land open for public hunting in the primary pheasant range of South Dakota.
"South Dakota is a hunting destination for people across the country and the world, with more than 1 million birds harvested each year. Pheasant hunting and other outdoor recreational activities have long been a fundamental part of the South Dakota experience. We look forward to welcoming that traditional sea of blaze orange once again this October," concluded Hepler.
South Dakota's traditional statewide pheasant hunting season opens on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017, and runs through Jan. 7, 2018.
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News November 2017
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