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Pheasant hunters in North Dakota came out in record numbers last year, resulting in the largest pheasant harvest in 60 years, according to the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

A series of mild winters and good nesting habitat have increased the number of birds in the state, said Stan Kohn, an upland game biologist.

The good pheasant conditions brought 92,801 hunters to the fields, which included an 8 percent increase in nonresident hunters.

The 809,775 birds harvested were well short of the record 2.4 million birds in 1944 and 1945 but 40 percent higher than the 2004 season.

While it's still too early to tell what the population will be this fall, one population-trend indicator this past spring showed the results of another mild winter. Spring crowing counts showed a 39 percent increase. Biologists' main concern is how many nests were successful this summer, considering the hot, dry conditions over much of the state's pheasant range.

Kohn said the survival rate of young birds from June through the middle of August would determine the size of the fall population. The Game and Fish Department will have a better handle on the status of the population later this month.

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