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Not only numbers: Pheasants might be down in ND, but it isn't just about success rate for hunters

FNS Photo by Sean Ryan A pheasant peeks out from a public hunting area near Mitchell, S.D. The number of pheasants in southwest North Dakota are low, but hunters are still having fun out in the field.

Pheasant numbers in North Dakota are down, and every hunter in southwest North Dakota knows it.

However, for a pair of junior classmates from New England, pheasant hunting isn't just about filing the limit for the day, but enjoying outdoors activities with friends.

"It's great," New England junior Daniel Prince said. "It's something to do besides playing basketball every day. You can get away from school. You can go out with your friends, have a fun time and make memories."

New England junior Ty Nordby added: "It's fun. We have a lot of fun."

The numbers of pheasants are down 30 percent statewide, but out of the four corners of the state, southwest North Dakota was hit the least hard.

During the roadside pheasant survey conducted in late July and August, southwest North Dakota indicated the number of birds observed was down 25 percent from 2012. The southeast was hit the hardest, with the population down 43 percent, while the northwest was down 39 percent and the northeast was down 35 percent.

Though Prince knew numbers were going to be down, he just didn't know how drastically.

"I didn't know pheasant numbers were going to be down this much," Prince said. "We've been walking quite a bit to get our birds. You definitely have to work for them this year, that's for sure."

Nordby and Prince hunt south of New England by Regent. Prince said one of the better times to find birds is around 9 a.m. or 10 a.m., because the birds are coming out of the field to feed. Nordby, who plays varsity football for Dickinson Trinity and basketball for New England, said hunters in southwestern North Dakota just have to know where to look.

"The hunt season this year has been slow, that's for sure," he said. "There are certain patches where the birds pile up. If you can find that patch, then the hunting is pretty good. Most of the time, you will walk a field and see 20 roosters, but then you'll get to a little honey hole and there will be a couple hundred, and that's always nice."

Prince doesn't have qualms about trekking through a field in search for birds. Besides hunting, Prince plays varsity basketball for New England and is an avid fisherman. He'd rather spend time outside than cooped up indoors.

Though the numbers aren't as great as a couple of years ago, Prince said hunting in a landscape with a limited amount of birds makes it even more special when someone gets a rooster.

"You definitely get to spend more time outside with your friends," Prince said. "It's more exercising. You feel better about yourself too when you get that bird. There are a little more bragging rights than when you could easy get your limit compared to the previous years."