The 2003 ring-necked pheasant spring crowing count survey revealed a 5 percent increase in numbers compared to last year, reports Lowell Tripp, upland game biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.
This is the sixth year in a row the spring rooster index has shown an increase, Tripp said, while noting the severe winter of 1996-97 that caused the pheasant population to reach a low level. "This is good news for our pheasant hunters," he added. "At this point it appears that with average reproduction our pre-hunt pheasant population will show an increase over 2002."
The index does not measure an entire population density, Tripp mentioned, but is an indicator of the pheasant population trend. Under the crowing count census, certain geographical routes are surveyed each year. The information recorded is compared to previous years' data, providing a population trend.
The survey indicated crowing counts are comparable or up in all areas of the state except the southwest, which was down slightly from last year. The most significant increases were in the central and southeastern regions. "The best spring pheasant population appears to be located in the south central part of the state," Tripp said, "with the southeast also looking good."
Even though the crowing count indicates a modest increase in numbers, the fall pheasant population largely depends on reproduction success in late May and early June. Biologists are concerned about localized populations after wet weather hit parts of the state in June.
Pheasant crowing counts are conducted each spring throughout North Dakota. Observers drive specified routes, stopping at pre-determined intervals, and count the number of pheasant roosters heard crowing during the stop.
The crowing count is one of several surveys used to determine pheasant population status. Winter sex ratio counts are combined with crowing count data to indicate a better picture of the breeding population. Late summer roadside counts during July and August provide information on pheasant population reproductive success, and give a clearer indication of pheasant numbers for the fall hunting season.
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