North Dakota’s 2013 pheasant crowing count survey indicates that rooster numbers were down about 11 percent statewide compared to last year, heading into the spring breeding season.
All four pheasant districts had lower counts than last year. The number of crows heard in the northeast declined by 18 percent, southeast and southwest by 11 percent, and the northwest by nearly 2 percent.
Stan Kohn, upland game management supervisor for the State Game and Fish Department, said only the southwest was initially spared a harsh winter, but a spring snowstorm in April buried much of the area in more than 12 inches of snow.
“Had it not been for the long winter in most of the state and the April storm, I would have expected a higher crow count statewide this spring,” Kohn said. “But I think we did lose some birds during late spring, which reduced our 2013 spring breeding population slightly from 2012.”
The late spring snowstorms and cooler than normal April delayed breeding and nesting for all upland game birds, Kohn said, with early nesting hens facing rainy conditions, and probably some flooded nests. “On the positive side, this occurred early enough in the nesting season that most hens should have renested,” he added. “In addition, the wet spring seemed to jump start grass and forb growth in pastures, helping later nesting pheasants with improved quality of nesting habitat. Unless we experience some early summer weather problems, I still expect much better upland game production this summer from all our species.”
However, Kohn noted, the loss of CRP is going to reduce nesting and brooding cover in the future, and will negatively affect the pheasant population.
Spring crowing count data is not a good indicator of the fall population. It does not measure population density, but provides an index of the spring rooster population based on a trend of number of crows heard. Brood surveys, which begin in mid-July and are completed by September, are a better indicator of the summer’s pheasant production and provide insight into what to expect for a fall pheasant population.
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.