Mild winter conditions, early spring green up and a warm and dry summer have led to an increase in brood production for pheasants, ruffed grouse and wild turkey according to state wildlife biologists.

“Brood production surveys for these species were conducted during the months of June, July and August as they went about their normal work duties,” said Brian Dhuey, Department of Natural Resources wildlife survey coordinator. “These data are still preliminary and may change,” adds Dhuey, “but they can be used as an index to production and help in the forecast of fall hunting prospects.”

Brood rearing conditions favorable

“A mild winter and an early spring green up meant game bird survival and physical condition should have been good going into the 2012 breeding season,” Dhuey said.

“Brood rearing conditions in Wisconsin in 2012 were above average for temperature with much of the state seeing temperatures 2-4 degrees above average for the months of June through August. Precipitation was generally average to below for the northern half of the state and much of the southern half was below to much below average, with some areas in the south receiving little to no rain for extended periods of the brooding rearing season. Early June weather is the most critical for turkey, pheasant and grouse broods as this is when recently-hatched chicks are most susceptible to hypothermia if they get wet. A large rainfall event in the far northwestern part of northern Wisconsin could have affected brood survival, otherwise much of the summer was excellent for brood rearing and survival.”

Ruffed Grouse

Statewide, ruffed grouse broods seen per observer hour were up 11 percent compared to 2011 levels. Ruffed Grouse production was up in two of the three regions that compose the primary range for ruffed grouse, central (94 percent), northern (5 percent), and southwestern (-1 percent). Ruffed grouse brood size rose slightly from 4.2 in 2011 to 4.3 young per brood in 2012.

“While production was good this spring, spring breeding grouse numbers were down 25 percent in 2012,” said Dhuey. “Grouse production in 2012 was above 2011 levels, but it was still 42 percent below the long-term mean. While some areas of the primary ruffed grouse range will be better than others, it appears that ruffed grouse numbers are on the decline from their cyclic high of the past few years.”

Pheasant

The number of pheasant broods seen per observer-hour was up 78 percent in 2012 compared to last year. Pheasant production was up in both the primary (108 percent) and secondary (67 percent) pheasant range from the 2011 levels. Pheasant brood size was down, with an average of 4.0 young per brood in 2012 vs. 4.5 in 2011.

“While pheasant brood numbers rebounded in 2012 from 2011 levels, they were still 39 percent below their long-term average,” says Dhuey. “And although brood rearing conditions were improved over the past couple of years, overall pheasant numbers are likely impacted by declining grassland habitat due to losses in conservation reserve program acres and increases in commodity prices throughout the pheasant range”.

Turkey

“Wild turkeys were the real bright spot with a 104 percent increase in the number of broods seen per observer-hour and an increase in the size of the broods seen compared to 2011,” says Dhuey.

All 5 DNR regions showed an increase in the observation rate in 2012 from 2011 levels with sizeable gains in northern (151 percent), northeast (77 percent), south central (136 percent), southeast (176 percent), and the west central regions (26 percent). The statewide observation rate was 34 percent above the long-term mean and the 3rd highest since 1987. The average size of a brood seen in 2012 was 4.9 young per brood, up from the 4.5 young per brood seen in 2011.

“It would appear that wild turkeys had a good brood year across much of the state”.

All survey results are preliminary and subject to change upon the collection of further data and additional analysis.

Logo courtesy Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

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