North Dakota’s roadside surveys conducted in late July and August indicate pheasant, gray partridge and sharp-tailed grouse numbers were up.
State Game and Fish Department upland game biologist RJ Gross said survey conditions were exceptional this year, which might have led to increased observations, but survey conditions shouldn’t have large effects on brood sizes or age ratios, which were also up.
“Hunters should expect to find similar or higher numbers than last year, with good numbers of hatch-year birds in their bags,” Gross said.
Total pheasants observed (65 per 100 miles) are up 61% from last year and broods (7.5) per 100 miles are up 70%. The average brood size (6.3) is up 2%. The final summary is based on 282 survey runs made along 100 brood routes across North Dakota.
Observers in the northwest counted 13.5 broods and 113 pheasants per 100 miles, up from 11 broods and 96 pheasants in 2022. Average brood size was six.
Results from the southeast showed 5.4 broods and 49 pheasants per 100 miles, up from five broods and 29 pheasants in 2022. Average brood size was six.
Statistics from southwestern North Dakota indicated 9.8 broods and 86 pheasants per 100 miles, up from five broods and 48 pheasants in 2022. Average brood size was six chicks.
The northeast district, generally containing secondary pheasant habitat with lower pheasant numbers compared to the rest of the state, showed one brood and seven pheasants per 100 miles, compared to two broods and 18 pheasants last year. Average brood size was five.
Gross said sharptails had above average production and have rebounded back to the good years of 2011-15.
“Hunters should expect to find a good ratio of hatch-year grouse in 2023,” he added. “Much of the increase in sharptail observations was driven by a rebounding population in the southwest district.”
Sharptails observed per 100 miles are up 116% statewide. Brood survey results show observers recorded 2.6 broods and 29 sharptails per 100 miles. Average brood size was six.
Partridge observed per 100 miles are up 200%. Observers recorded 2.4 broods and 36 partridge per 100 miles. Average brood size was 11.
Generally, Gross said, most of the partridge harvest is incidental while hunters pursue grouse or pheasants. But this year, partridge numbers looked impressive, as for the first time more partridge were observed than sharptails on brood routes.
“Partridge numbers are tied with an all-time high, dating all the way back to 1992,” Gross said.
The grouse and partridge seasons continue through Jan. 7, 2024.
The pheasant season opens Oct. 7 and continues through Jan. 7, 2024. The two-day youth pheasant hunting weekend, when legally licensed residents and nonresidents 15 and younger can hunt statewide, is set for Sept. 30 and Oct. 1.