Dakota Uplander: Late Season Lore

By Nick Simonson   Ever since this season’s first blizzard, which fell on the weekend of pheasant opener, late season tactics have been front of mind for many hunters when it comes to upland adventures.  Something about snow and the chill of the coming winter sets off pheasants and instantly seems to make them smarter…

Dakota Uplander: Roadside Survey Eyes Future with Pilot Program

By Nick Simonson     Aside from the hundred or so doves perched on powerlines and tucked along the tall summer sweet clover hanging over the edges of the gravel road, there wasn’t much upland activity to talk about on this particular day of the summer roadside survey intended to count developing broods of pheasants…

Dakota Uplander: From Butterflies to Birds, Pollinator Plantings Benefit All

By Nick Simonson The combination of this winter’s rise in migrating monarch butterflies – around 300 million of them as reported in January by WWF Mexico in their annual estimates – and the desire for the establishment of diverse habitat on marginal lands which sustain the popular pollinator species along with other watchable wildlife and…

Dakota Uplander: How Long?

By Nick Simonson The tail on the rooster pheasant flopped in the wind like a CB antenna on a country boy’s pickup, and I knew as my lab brought the bird to hand it was old.  Inspecting the pointed ebony spurs, it was clear the pheasant was the first non-yearling to find its way into…

Dakota Uplander: A Perfect Morning

By Nick Simonson On my first pheasant hunt in 2003, setting foot on the east side of the open grass field down from my grandmother’s green farmhouse with my uncle and my cousin, I received a piece of advice about upland hunting that served not only as an extremely optimistic guidepost for a first time…

Dakota Uplander: The Early Late Season

By Nick Simonson The unpredictable nature of October in the upper Midwest means one year kids are sprinting down the street in their Halloween costumes, and the next those outfits wear costumes of their own, consisting of snow pants, boots and thick down jackets.  With all its unpredictability, the tenth month on the calendar keeps…

Dakota Uplander: Adjusting Choke & Shot Size

By Nick Simonson When it comes to upland hunting, a good shooter, competent and familiar with his or her shotgun, will get the bird every time regardless of shot size or choke used.  However, to increase success depending on species, season and situation, adjusting pellet size and choke tubes throughout the fall is an advanced…

Dakota Uplander: Continued Low Pheasant Numbers Highlight Need for Habitat

By Nick Simonson With a mild winter, spring with well-timed rains, and generally calm and temperate summer, the hope of a rebound in pheasant numbers for this fall buoyed many hunters and conservationists into September, despite the continued observation that habitat was severely lacking on the landscape of North Dakota.  Those hopes were dampened with…

Seven Preseason Tips for Upland Hunting

By Nick Simonson With the mourning dove opener about a month away, and grouse and partridge starting the weekend after that, it’s time to take stock of not only where bird populations are at across the state’s upland areas, but also to prepare for the seasons ahead. Execute on these activities now to find better…

Dakota Uplander: High Hopes for ND Pheasant Hatch

By Nick Simonson With spring crowing counts complete and numbers soon to be released by the North Dakota Game & Fish Department (NDG&F), optimism is growing for a successful pheasant hatch and brood-rearing season in the coming weeks and months throughout the state.  According to NDG&F Upland Game Biologist RJ Gross, this optimism is rooted…

Dakota Uplander: 2017 Season Wrap

By Nick Simonson Upland numbers and hunter success generally reflected what was predicted by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department (NDG&F) in its summer surveys.  With the season wrapping up this weekend only the hardiest upland hunters will be in the field pursuing pheasants, grouse and partridge one last time, as wardens, officials and…

Dakota Uplander: The Upland Slam

By Nick Simonson Despite the headwinds on the prairie due to lower numbers of upland birds resulting from habitat loss and drought, this season marked a monumental first for me. By combining a September trip to the pine-and-popple forests of northeastern Minnesota, along with weekly adventures on the plains of the Peace Garden State, I…

Dakota Uplander: Hunting This Late Season

By Nick Simonson In this season where populations of pheasants are noticeably lower, finding birds has sometimes been a challenge.  When stumbled upon, the pockets of survivors have been jumpy, seemingly in the know that they are what remains as the target of  the pursuit from the most devout upland hunters and their dogs.  Now,…

Dakota Uplander: Good to be Back

By Nick Simonson Not ten yards out from the truck, my young lab, Ole, plowed into the lightly drifted snow in the treeline running down the center of a 40-acre square of PLOTS land.  The western side had been hayed in reaction to this summer’s drought, while grass on the eastern side, save for a…

Dakota Uplander: Pheasant Hunter’s Checklist

By Nick Simonson The minutes are winding down to the start of a new pheasant season, and whatever the destination for Saturday’s opener might be, odds are that a good deal of gear, guns and pet equipment will be headed along for the trip.  It has been said that success is where preparation and opportunity…

Dakota Uplander: Fingers Crossed

By Nick Simonson When pheasant hunting, few pieces of habitat excite me more than an area of grass or cattails which ends in a narrow taper in the middle of a harvested field.  These fingers of habitat point to success nearly every time I walk them.  They’re simple to identify and assess, generally easy to…

Dakota Uplander: Behind the Pheasant Brood Count Numbers

By Nick Simonson Is now the time to panic? If you were privy to the numbers behind the recent pheasant brood count survey press release and took a Statistics 101 course in high school or college, you might say yes, as tallies dipped to 10-year lows and approached recent records.  This year, total roadside count…

Dakota Uplander: Grouse & Partridge Preview

By Nick Simonson While the drought experienced this summer by much of North Dakota has had an obvious impact on upland bird recruitment, hunters will still find opportunities this weekend and throughout the autumn to pursue sharp-tailed grouse and Hungarian partridge as the seasons open on Saturday, and for these predictable birds, identifying those places…

Dakota Uplander: Drought Takes Its Toll on SW ND Pheasants

By Nick Simonson As drought conditions continue to grip the heart of North Dakota’s pheasant region, agents of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, employees of Pheasants Forever and area hunters report that the dry weather has been having a negative impact on the number of young birds they have been seeing. “Anecdotally, I’ve…

Dakota Uplander: Ruffies Remain an Option

By Nick Simonson Recently, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources released its annual spring drumming count survey for Ruffed Grouse, indicating a 57 percent increase in male birds observed on survey routes.  With this significant spike, agents predict that state’s population of its most popular upland bird is nearing its 10-year peak in the decadal…

Dakota Uplander: Crowing Counts Nearly Done, Nesting Underway

By Nick Simonson With the North Dakota Game & Fish Department (NDG&F) wrapping up their spring crowing count surveys for pheasants, agents are able to provide some insight into conditions meeting nesting birds, and what awaits hatching chicks. While some winter mortality of pheasants and other upland birds is expected after a tough start to…