Pheasant hunters in North Dakota had plenty to smile about last fall: They bagged 683,000 roosters, up 23 percent from the 552,000 killed in 2010.
Likewise, hunters in South Dakota had a very good season, shooting 1.5 million birds — down a bit from the 1.8 million harvested in 2010.
Meanwhile, Iowa’s pheasant harvest was the lowest in 50 years.
Minnesota hasn’t yet released harvest results.
In North Dakota, Aaron Robinson, upland bird biologist for the Game and Fish Department, said there likely weren’t more birds on the landscape, but Mother Nature allowed for an increase in harvest due to mild weather conditions and minimal snow cover in November, December and early January.
“This is a prime example of how the harvest doesn’t necessarily reflect the overall population,” Robinson said in a news release. “We actually had lower production in 2011 than in 2010, but hunter effort made up the difference due to last winter’s exceptionally mild weather conditions.”
The number of hunters declined 10 percent to 82,700. The number of resident hunters was down 5 percent to 58,200, while nonresident pheasant hunter numbers decreased 20 percent to 24,500.
“However, the determining factor is many hunters were able to enjoy good hunting conditions with mild weather through the last weekend of the season,” Robinson said.
Birds bagged per hunter increased from 6.0 to 8.3. Each hunter spent an average of six days afield.
Meanwhile, it can’t get much worse for Iowa ringneck hunters. They bagged just 109,000 rosters last fall, the lowest since standardized estimates began in 1962.
Officials said the Iowa pheasant harvest reflected what the roadside counts had predicted, that the population was down after five winters with above average snowfall followed by five wetter than normal springs.
Weather patterns this past winter and spring suggest Iowa will see its first significant increase in pheasant numbers in 6 years.
Iowa’s hunter survey showed an estimated 57,285 mourning doves were harvested during the state's inaugural mourning dove hunting season.