It’s not great news for pheasant hunters: North Dakota’s 2013 pheasant crowing count survey indicates that rooster numbers were down about 11 percent statewide.
Earlier, Iowa projected declining numbers of pheasants this season because of poor weather. Minnesotans won’t find out the ringneck status here until after the annual August roadside survey is conducted.
While the news out of North Dakota isn’t encouraging, officials emphasize that the spring crowing count is not necessarily a good indicator of the fall pheasant population. It doesn’t measure population density, but provides an index of the spring rooster population based on a trend of number of crows heard.
The agency says 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.
Here’s more from the North Dakota Game and Fish Department news release:
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.
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.

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