The numbers North Dakota pheasant hunters have been waiting for came out this week, and the news is good: Pheasant numbers are up from last year, based on results from roadside surveys conducted in late July and August.

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department reported the survey results for pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse and Hungarian partridges on Monday, Sept. 9.

According to RJ Gross, upland game biologist for Game and Fish, this year’s survey shows total pheasants observed per 100 miles are up 10% from last year. In addition, broods per 100 miles are up 17%, while the average brood size is down 5%. The final summary is based on 275 survey runs made along 101 brood routes across North Dakota.

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)

“This was the first year in a while that we’ve had good residual cover to start the year, and good weather for nesting and brood-rearing,” Gross said. “In the southwest portion of the state, which is our primary pheasant district and most popular hunting area, local populations are slowly improving."

Gross said hunters should not overlook pheasant opportunities in northwest and southeast North Dakota.

“Two good years of chick production should translate to more birds for hunters to pursue,” he said.

Statistics from the northwest indicate pheasants are up 49% from last year, with broods up 75%. Observers recorded five broods and 39 pheasants per 100 miles. Average brood size was six.

Results from the southeast show birds are up 32% from last year, and the number of broods up 27%. Observers counted six broods and 51 birds per 100 miles. The average brood size was six.

Statistics from southwestern North Dakota indicate total pheasants were down 7% and broods observed up 2% from 2018. For every 100 survey miles, observers counted an average of six broods and 41 pheasants. The average brood size was five chicks.

The northeast district, generally containing secondary pheasant habitat with lower pheasant numbers compared to the rest of the state, showed two broods and 15 pheasants per 100 miles. Average brood size was four.

Sharptail, Hun results

For sharptails and Hungarian partridges, roadside counts per 100 miles are up 113% and 58% statewide, respectively, from 2018.

Despite the increase in sharptail counts, the numbers still are about 50% below 2012-15, said Jesse Kolar, upland game management supervisor for Game and Fish in Dickinson, N.D.

“However, we observed slight increases in all metrics this year during our surveys, especially in counties east of the Missouri River, where we observed the highest numbers of grouse per 100 miles since 2013,” he said.

Brood survey results show statewide increases in number of grouse and broods observed per 100 miles and in average brood size. Observers recorded 1.7 sharptail broods and 13.6 sharptails per 100 miles. Average brood size was five.

Though partridge numbers have shown a slight increase, Gross said the majority of the partridge harvest is incidental while hunters pursue grouse or pheasants. Partridge densities in general, he said, are too low to target. Observers recorded 0.5 partridge broods and 6.8 partridges per 100 miles; the average brood size was 10.

The 2019 grouse and partridge seasons open Saturday, Sept. 14, and continue through Jan. 5.

The 2019 regular pheasant season opens Oct. 12 and continues through Jan. 5. The two-day youth pheasant hunting weekend, when legally licensed residents and nonresidents ages 15 and younger can hunt statewide, is set for Oct. 5-6.