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Migration Alert: North Dakota Hunters Enjoy Strong Start By John Pollmann, WF360 Central Flyway Migration Editor

Reprinted from Ducks Unlimited

North Dakota hunters have yet to see much of an influx of migrating waterfowl from Canada, but locally produced birds are providing ample opportunities for waterfowlers across the state.

Excellent late spring wetland conditions resulted in a strong waterfowl breeding effort in the Prairie Pothole Region of northwestern North Dakota this year, says Monte Ellingson, with the Crosby Wetland Management District, which is a unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

“Hunters are taking advantage of the good bird numbers now, with mallards, pintails, and gadwalls on many game straps,” Ellingson says.  “And we have a surprising number of blue-winged teal still around for this time of the year.  There’s no shortage of opportunities for hunters, but you do need to scout.”DU Migration Logo

Ellingson’s office is only five miles from the Canadian border, and he says that a large number of sandhill cranes have arrived from the north in the past two weeks.

“There is a lot of shallow water standing in fields in the area, which I think the cranes really like,” he says.  “Lesser Canada geese are beginning to show up now, too.  Nothing in really big numbers, but there has been some movement of birds into the state.”

Brian Prince with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department agrees, reporting that lesser Canada geese and snow geese are just starting to arrive in the Devils Lake region.

“We are seeing quite a few ducks and Canada geese, but I believe most of the birds were locally produced,” Prince says.  “Mallards are beginning to congregate in larger groups in the area, and gadwall numbers are through the roof. Gadwalls appear to be on every wetland.”

Hunters traveling to the Devils Lake region are likely to encounter deteriorating wetland conditions, Prince adds, and they may discover that small, shallow water bodies that have produced quality hunts in past years are now dry.

“Diver hunters won’t be as impacted by the dry conditions, because the larger, semi-permanent and permanent wetlands still have plenty of water in them,” he explains. “The puddle ducks are starting to utilize these larger wetlands as well, making for some great mixed-bag hunting opportunities.”

Ducks and geese are also starting to utilize different food sources in the area, according to North Dakota hunter Mike Clement, switching from fields of small grains to soybeans and corn.

“There are plenty of opportunities to put together a good hunt if you’re willing to put on some miles and scout,” Clement says.

It has been a quiet start to the waterfowl season in south-central North Dakota, according to Mick Erickson with the Kulm Wetland Management District.

“We aren’t seeing the big concentrations of birds in the area yet, but local birds are providing fairly good opportunities for hunters,” Erickson says.  “Wetland conditions are proving to be a challenge for hunters, too.  The weather has been dry, so most of the smaller wetlands have mudflats around the edges.”

The outlook for this part of North Dakota is still positive, Erickson adds, as field hunting opportunities are expanding as the soybean harvest is completed and farmers begin combining corn.

“We have good food resources in the area and enough water in the semi-permanent wetlands to attract birds as the season progresses,” he says.  “The lack of water in the smaller wetlands may help concentrate birds, too, which could help hunters.”




Pheasants Forever Pheasant Forecast

Reprinted from Pheasants Forever

Forecast: Iowa’s roadside count showed the second straight year of increasing pheasant numbers. The statewide index of 24 birds per route represented a 37 percent increase over last year and a 260 percent increase over the all-time low set in 2013. The highest concentration of birds occurred in the northwest.

“Several favorable winters have helped us recover bird numbers statewide,” says Todd Bogenschutz, upland game biologist and farmland coordinator for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “The pheasant index in the northwest, central, and southeast regions is at or above the long-term average. So where pheasant habitat is available, hunting should be pretty good in these regions. Counts improved in most other regions, and hunting should be better than last year. But the number of birds will be less than the long-term average.” [Read more…]


South Dakota Pheasant Numbers Increase 42 Percent, Habitat Remains Critical Factor

With the potential for 1.5 million rooster harvest, Pheasants Forever stays the course for wildlife habitat

Brookings, S.D. – August 27, 2015 – The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (SDGFP) has released their annual pheasant brood survey and the results show a 42 percent increase in the statewide pheasants-per-mile index compared to 2014. Elated by this report and the 150 percent increase overall since pheasant abundance reached a recent low merely two years ago, Pheasants Forever continues to stress the importance of habitat and conservation program availability in South Dakota for long-term sustainability of pheasant populations.

Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever’s director in South Dakota and who leads the organization’s regional office in Brookings, views the recent increases as motivation to continue charting a roadmap for further habitat programs in the state. “Pheasants Forever is thrilled to see rebounding pheasant numbers which will make for a great hunting season in ‘The Pheasant Capital.’ Still, we must keep in mind the obstacles in subsequent years related to pheasant habitat loss. In the next five years alone, South Dakota is set to expire nearly 390,000 acres of CRP. Pheasants Forever is advising state leadership to consider more strategic conservation programs to help safeguard South Dakota’s pheasant hunting traditions over the long-term.”

South Dakota has begun taking steps to replace the 1.8 million acres of grasslands and prairies lost since 2006, including the formation of a Pheasant Habitat Work Group, requesting more acres of CP-38 (State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement), and forming local advocacy groups – the Aberdeen Pheasant Coalition for example – to fund habitat improvements and increase landowner participation in conservation programs. Nomsen says additional near-term steps can contribute to the pheasant rebound, including increased funding for the South Dakota Conservation Fund and funding to re-open enrollments for the James River Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) – with funding, nearly 20,000 more acres of pheasant habitat could be enrolled.

“Habitat continues to be at the forefront of the conversation and is a crucial factor in pheasant numbers,” stated Kelly Hepler, SDGFP Secretary. “Bird numbers are higher in parts of the state where quality habitat conditions still exist, primarily on grasslands including those enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program as well as fields of cereal crops such as winter wheat. We continue to work in cooperation with the Governor’s Habitat Work Group, landowners, partner organizations and agencies to provide an improved future for wildlife habitat in our state.”

For Pheasants Forever remarks regarding South Dakota’s pheasant brood survey or the work of Pheasants Forever in South Dakota, contact Dave Nomsen at 605-864-8138 or email. [Read more…]


Duck numbers remain high, Drier conditions on the prairies demonstrate importance of Boreal Forest habitat

Reprinted from Ducks Unlimited
Memphis, Tenn. – July 2, 2015 – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) today released its report on 2015 Trends in Duck Breeding Populations, based on surveys conducted in May and early June by FWS and the Canadian Wildlife Service. Overall duck numbers in the survey area are statistically similar to last year and remain strong. Total populations were estimated at 49.5 million breeding ducks in the traditional survey area, which is 43 percent above the 1955-2014 long-term average and the highest count on record. Last year’s estimate was 49.2 million birds.

View all the data and get a species-by-species breakdown at www.ducks.org/DuckNumbers.com.

“We are fortunate to see continued high overall duck populations in North America’s breeding areas this year,” said DU CEO Dale Hall. “Though conditions were dry in some important habitats, we had large numbers of birds returning this spring and good conditions in the Boreal Forest and other areas of Canada. It looks like some typical prairie nesters skipped over the U.S. prairies and took advantage of good conditions farther north. This is an important reminder about the critical need for maintaining abundant and high-quality habitat across the continent. The Boreal Forest, especially, can provide important habitat when the prairies are dry. But the Boreal is under increasing threats from resource extraction.” [Read more…]