Upland survey trending low

Final survey numbers will not be compiled until the second week of September, but early indications from observers in the field are that upland game birds may not have fared very well this past nesting season.

Each year the North Dakota Game and Fish Department utilizes agency personnel to conduct upland game brood surveys throughout the state. The number of broods sighted and the number of chicks in the broods are counted. Thus far the information reaching Upland Game Management Supervisor Stan Kohn’s desk has not been encouraging.

“It does look like our numbers are going to be down,” said Kohn early last week. “In all four districts, the number of broods and the total number of birds is down 30 to 40 percent – pretty consistently.”

The statewide survey ended Aug. 31. Kohn expects the survey results finalized during the second week of September. Hopefully, said Kohn, the final survey numbers will be more encouraging than what has occurred so far.

“They may bounce up a little bit yet with more hay and small grains being cut,” stated Kohn. “There does seem to be a smaller number of chicks in the broods though, lower than what we’ve seen in the last five years.”

Kohn emphasized that primarily young of the year pheasants are targeted during annual brood surveys. Sharptailed grouse and Hungarian partridge are counted too, but the number of those birds encountered during brood surveys is generally not extensive. Nevertheless, final survey tabulations are expected to show their numbers to be down when compared to previous years.

Record, or near-record rainfall, fell in many areas of the state earlier this year. The heavy rain, coupled with cool temperatures, occurred during the prime nesting season for upland game birds. Sometimes hens that lose broods will nest a second time. Second broods are almost always fewer in number than the first. This year though, it may not have mattered.

“I was hoping the birds missed that rainy spell. I don’t know if they did or not,” said Kohn.

As always, there are a number of variables in conducting roadside brood surveys. Weather conditions and an abundance of vegetation can make counting young birds difficult. Sometimes there are more birds in the field than what initial surveys indicate.

While final survey numbers released later this month will be of interest to upland game hunters, it is what hunters will encounter in the field this fall that will form their opinion of bird numbers. The grouse and partridge season opens Sept. 14. Pheasant season opens Oct. 12