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Posted 9/04/18 (Tue)

The 2018 pheasant broods surveys show a 25% increase in pheasant numbers. Compared with the 2017 survey, broods per mile was 14% higher, young pheasants per mile were 77% higher, and total pheasants per mile were 25% higher. 

Compared with the previous 10-year average (2008-2017), broods/mile was 12% higher than the average, young pheasants per mile were 69% lower than average and total pheasants per mile were 68% lower. 

Compared with the previous 5-year average (2013-2018), broods/mile was 15% higher than the average, young pheasants per mile were 54% lower than average and total pheasants per mile were 56% lower.

In 2018, the Grassrope route yielded the highest pheasant count.

Winter conditions were average and spring/summer nesting conditions were excellent. The numbers of pheasant hens with broods (85%) and pheasant chicks per brood (8.1) were significantly improved this year. However, the overall pheasant population, and specifically the number of hens coming into the spring breeding season was so low (due primarily to past 3 years of drought conditions) that a significant population increase was not possible.

Prairie grouse spring lek surveys showed about 30% decline in breeding males compared to last year and the past years' averages. However, due to greater than average precipitation and the good nesting and brood rearing conditions, we expect that grouse production was strong. 

Habitat conditions are good to excellent this year because of good to excellent rainfall over the summer. Grass cover is tall and dense and food plots are overall good, though there is great variation in food plots due to wet spring conditions causing late planting and weed control, as well as hailed-out areas that had to be replanted. 

Overall, bird hunting should be slightly better than last year, but still much lower than our long term averages. We continue to manage about 7,000 acres of CRP grassland, 650 acres of food plots, lots of shelterbelts and over 60,000 acres of Walk-in Hunting lands. So, with a good dog and a willingness to put in some serious time and miles, hunters should enjoy another year of bird hunting here at Lower Brule.