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Posted on Fri, Oct. 08, 2004

Numbers down as pheasant season opens

Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. - North Dakota pheasant hunters will not see bird numbers like they did last year when they take to the fields this weekend, but it still should be a good season, officials say.

"Everything just clicked for us last year, and it's just that it didn't all click this year," said Stan Kohn, upland game biologist with the state Game and Fish Department.

The 2004 season opens Saturday and continues through Jan. 2, 2005. Limits are three roosters daily and 12 in possession.

Kohn said pheasant numbers overall are down about 15 percent from a year ago - a year in which North Dakota saw a bumper crop of pheasants and 592,000 birds were bagged, the highest total since 1946. But this year's numbers still are comparable to 2002, when about 518,000 birds were harvested.

The success for hunters likely will depend on where they hunt, Kohn said. The northwest, central and southwestern parts of the state saw pheasant declines, while brood surveys point to a 35 percent increase in the southeast.

"Hunting in this area likely could be similar to 2003," Kohn said.

Weather is blamed for much of the drop in numbers. The northwest had a tough winter, and officials say cool, wet conditions in North Dakota during the peak of the hatch in mid-June likely caused some chick mortality.

The pheasant forecast comes as no surprise to Wade Sundsbak, an avid hunter from Minot. And he said hunting is not just about filling a limit anyway.

"If you truly love to hunt and spend quality time with your family, friends, and of course, man's best friend, then there is never a bad day in the field," he said. "Some days may be better than others, but they're all a treasure in your memory."

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