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Last season's pheasants harvest lowest since 1997

SYLVAN LAKE — The 2013 pheasant hunting season last fall held true to the projection that bird numbers would be down, but the results didn't turn out nearly as bad as the August forecast indicated they might be, a state Wildlife Division biologist said Friday.

Travis Runia said hunters harvested an estimated 982,000 pheasants during the 2013 season. It was the first time less than 1 million since 1997, he said. The 2012 estimated harvest was 1.4 million birds.

"It's been a tough series of years," Runia told members of the state Game, Fish and Parks Commission.

Hunters declined 19 percent, or 31,000 from the 2012 total of about 163,000 licensed hunters. The average 2013 harvest was 7.4 birds per hunter, down 17 percent from 2012, and the lowest since 1989.

The post-season population estimate came in at about 6 million pheasants. That was down about 20 percent from the 7.6 million estimated after the 2012 season.

The ratio of roosters to hens was 60 to 100 after the season. Runia said that is the highest in modern time.

If the 31,000 missing hunters had been in the field, the ratio would be at about 50 to 100, Runia said. He said that's still a high ratio.

Generally the August forecasts swing farther in either direction than the harvests do. "We've seen this trend over and over," Runia said.

The 2013 forecast was pheasant numbers were off 64 percent, based on the August roadside surveys conducted by wildlife biologists.

"We finally got a piece of information that suggests our dismal forecast last fall might not have been that bad," Runia said.