Doug Smith
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Minnesota's pheasant hunters won't get a hint of next fall's pheasant population until after the DNR's August roadside counts, but there's encouraging news in North Dakota.

The spring pheasant population index there is up 10 percent from last year, according to the State Game and Fish Department’s 2015 spring crowing count survey.

Stan Kohn, upland game management supervisor, said the number of roosters heard crowing this spring was up statewide, with increases ranging from about 2 to 12 percent in the primary pheasant range.

“A much improved production year for pheasants in spring 2014, coupled with the mild winter, produced a healthy breeding population this spring,” Kohn said.

While the spring number is a positive indicator, Kohn said it doesn't predict what the fall population will be. Brood surveys, which begin in mid-July and are completed by September, provide a much better estimate of summer pheasant production and what hunters might expect for a fall pheasant population.

Kohn mentioned a higher breeding population is good for production if the weather cooperates and nesting habitat is available. “This spring’s weather hasn’t been ideal, but I don’t think it has been a cause for major concern yet either,” he said.

Of concern, according to Kohn, is the continued loss of Conservation Reserve Program acres, variable commodity prices and native grassland conversion. “All of this affects the amount of nesting and brood rearing habitat on the landscape, and as we lose grassland habitat we lose ground nesting bird populations,” Kohn said.

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.