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Dropping Pheasants


North Dakota’s winter of 1996-97 is largely remembered for Blizzard Hannah and the devastating Red River flood that evacuated Grand Forks. But the destructive season also had effects that stretched into the state’s hunting seasons.

On this date in 1997, the resident pheasant season opened with a new limit of two birds per day, down from three. Studies showed that reducing the bag limit would spread the thin population out among state hunters while still ensuring a healthy number of pheasants for the future.

The Conservation Reserve Program, which increased cover and habitat, had produced a hunting seasons yielding nearly a quarter of a million birds, but after the winter of 96-97, rooster crowing counts dropped 27 percent, and breeding counts were down by half. The state’s 50,000 pheasant hunters couldn’t expect another banner season.

Eastern North Dakota pheasants were hit the hardest, but the birds were down all across the state. A spring ice storm caught many out in the open, a fate worse than blizzards. Still, pheasants fared better than pronghorn sheep, as seventy-five percent of the state’s pronghorn died that year.

The pheasants and hunters soldiered on, and after two years of heavy snowfall and population loss, the bag limit eventually returned to three roosters per day. Hunters cannot harvest hens. The season lasts three months from October to January.

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura


"http://www.nodakoutdoors.com/valleyoutdoors160.php" http://www.nodakoutdoors.com/valleyoutdoors160.php

Field & Stream. January 1997. Retrieved from: "https://books.google.com/books?id=EXjB35Lp2_cC&pg=RA8-PT50&lpg=RA8-PT50&dq=%22opened+october+11%22+north+dakota&source=bl&ots=9yw8Op4JWa&sig=aYI_4g2zImVGHdL_3tj-Shr30ko&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiIvO3d2r_NAhUB1x4KHc-3Dd4Q6AEINDAE#v=snippet&q=north%20dakota%20pheasants&f=false" https://books.google.com/books?id=EXjB35Lp2_cC&pg=RA8-PT50&lpg=RA8-PT50&dq=%22opened+october+11%22+north+dakota&source=bl&ots=9yw8Op4JWa&sig=aYI_4g2zImVGHdL_3tj-Shr30ko&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiIvO3d2r_NAhUB1x4KHc-3Dd4Q6AEINDAE#v=snippet&q=north%20dakota%20pheasants&f=false