If you’re an upland bird hunter, the spring nesting season is a time of year you pay particular attention to. Bird hunters keep track of nesting reports the way bookies keep tabs on a sports team’s injury list. And with nesting season set to begin across the plains and Midwest, Pheasants Forever has just released its first spring nesting habitat report and so far, it’s a mixed bag. It seems to be either cold and wet or hot and dry across much of the prairie states. Here’s a sample of conditions…
_Eastern South Dakota is wet right now thanks to spring runoff and rains. But if things can dry up over the next couple weeks, that would make for a good nesting season in the state, according to Matt Morlock, Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Biologist based out of Brookings, South Dakota. Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) enrollment has remained steady in the state for the last year at approximately 1.1 million acres.
“It’s been wet and cold in North Dakota,” says Jesse Beckers, Pheasants Forever’s Regional Wildlife Biologist in the state. Despite the runoff, rain and spring flooding, Beckers said acres were being enrolled during the recent CRP signup, so the birds will have places to go once things dry out – North Dakota is still at more than 2.6 million CRP acres. Beckers says the nesting may also be a bit behind this year because of the unseasonably cool temps.
_Following the best year for pheasants in Kansas in two decades, the winter carryover of the birds was good. However, the western third of the state is mired in a severe drought that has the state’s wheat crop in tough shape, and pheasants depend on that wheat for nesting cover.
According to the spring survey from early April, it’s a mixed bag of conditions across Nebraska, says Jeff Lusk, Upland Game Program Manger with the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission. In the eastern part of the state, pheasant numbers were down, indicating poor overwinter survival. Pheasant numbers were on par in the panhandle and north central. The best news comes from the best pheasant region in the state – southwest Nebraska – where overwinter survival was good.
How are nesting conditions in your area right now? Not just pheasants, but whatever upland birds you hunt.