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Posted 9/07/23 (Thu)

The 2023 pheasant brood numbers were significantly lower than last year. Compared with the 2022 survey, broods per mile was 63% lower, young pheasants per mile were 59% lower, and total pheasants per mile were 54% lower. 

Compared with the previous 5-year average (2018 – 2022), total pheasants per mile were 42% lower. Compared with the previous 10-year average (2013-2022), total pheasants per mile were 57% lower. 

Weather patterns have been mixed with last fall being extremely dry, a harsh winter with several severe snowstorms and prolonged periods of sustained snow cover and cold temperatures, dry spring conditions, and above average rainfall during the summer. Average brood sizes were lower (6.5 chicks/brood) this year indicating average chick survival. 

Prairie grouse (prairie-chicken and sharp-tailed grouse) spring lek surveys showed a 19% decrease in breeding males (20% lower for prairie-chickens and 16% lower for sharp-tailed grouse) compared to high counts last year which is still 2% higher than the five-year average and 6% higher than the long-term average.  Due to favorable nesting and brood rearing conditions, we expect that grouse chick survival was fair to good. 

Habitat conditions are average this year because of a dry start in the spring but good summer precipitation. Grass cover is average to good and food plots and pollinator plots are good to excellent. Many prairie wetlands are still dry but some have been recovering. 

Overall, upland bird hunting should be more challenging than last year and lower than the 10-year average. We continue to manage about 7,000 acres of CRP grassland, 700 acres of food plots and pollinator plots, many shelterbelts and over 60,000 acres of Walk-in Hunting lands. 

Licenses are available on-line or by phone. The office will be open from 8 – 4:30 on weekdays and Saturdays (October 7 – November 25).