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Published August 31, 2009, 11:40 AM

Fewer birds expected in the field when sharp-tailed grouse and Hungarian partridge season opens

When sharp-tailed grouse and Hungarian partridge seasons open Sept. 12, hunters should expect to see fewer birds in the field when compared to the last several years, according to Aaron Robinson, upland game biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Dickinson.

When sharp-tailed grouse and Hungarian partridge seasons open Sept. 12, hunters should expect to see fewer birds in the field when compared to the last several years, according to Aaron Robinson, upland game biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Dickinson.

Both bird species were negatively influenced by the severe winter and the wet spring, and Robinson said the four inches of snow that fell in southwestern North Dakota on June 6 didn’t help. “Numbers look poor compared to the last five years,” Robinson said. “Hunters should bring their walking shoes because they are going to have to cover a lot of ground to find pockets of birds.”

Preliminary results from July and August roadside counts indicate sharp-tailed grouse are down from last year nearly 50 percent statewide. The number of broods observed is down 48 percent and the average brood size is about the same as in 2008.

Hunters can expect much of the same for Hungarian partridge, with the statewide population down about 65 percent from 2008. The number of broods observed is down 60 percent, and average brood size is down about 7 percent. “We’re not seeing nearly the number of adults we have seen, and the number of broods is way down,” Robinson said.

Ruffed grouse populations tend to run in 8-10 year cycles. Stan Kohn, Game and Fish Department upland game management supervisor in Bismarck, said ruffed grouse spring counts have been low the last couple of years, but 2009 saw some major increases in the number of birds heard drumming. “This spring, drumming counts in the Turtle Mountains were up more than 100 percent from 2008, while counts in the Pembina Hills were up 50 percent,” Kohn said. “This might indicate an upward swing in the population cycle.” The Turtle Mountains in Bottineau and Rolette counties and the Pembina Hills area of Cavalier and Pembina counties should provide hunters with the best opportunities this fall.

The sage grouse season will remain closed in 2009 due to a low population.

Shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset. Sharptails, ruffed grouse and Huns each have a daily limit of three and a possession limit of 12.

Hunters, regardless of age, must have a fishing, hunting and furbearer certificate and general game and habitat license. In addition, hunters ages 16 and older need a small game license.

For further season information and regulations, hunters should consult the North Dakota 2009-10 Small Game Hunting Guide.

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