Early Summer Update & News from Prairie Smoke Ranch
Greetings and Happy 4th of July! Summer is progressing nicely here in Central North Dakota’s Prairie Pothole Region. Following are the summer conditions we’ve found on the ranch and surrounding area.
Three inches of rain in the past four days spells: “drought
buster”. As reported earlier we have received
some sort of precip every three to four days for the last six weeks – it might
be 15/100ths, a half inch or 1 ¾” such as we received a couple days ago. See last week’s drought map here: http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/CurrentMap/StateDroughtMonitor.aspx?ND
I fully expect the drought line will be pushed further to the northwest when the new map comes out.Frequent rain makes great crops, hay and food plots (not to mention happy ducks). Not so helpful when trying to “put up” hay – consequently our 300+ acres are still standing as this is written. Fair skies for the next few days means this might be our window to get it cut and baled.
Early rain and hot weather (in the 90's) in May pushed area
alfalfa to early maturity, allowing many local ranchers to put it up earlier
than in previous years. This means a couple things: they may get two cuttings,
which is rare here in the high plains, and alfalfa fields this fall may be quite
thick due to regrowth – and consequently may hold some upland birds. I don’t expect we’ll be lacking for cover
this fall – the landscape here is green, lush and growing. Similarly, pasture areas this fall should
provide more cover than in previous years.
What about the sloughs and wetlands? Our sloughs, many of which were dry last
fall, are moist and thick with vegetation. We are gaining water on some of them
but unless we get torrential rains throughout the remainder of the summer I
expect they will hold these levels – this assuming the current rain pattern
continues. Our big water continues to look good – wouldn’t mind if their levels
dropped a bit.
The Missus and I have been traveling to nearby locations in each
compass direction lately in search of walleyes and trout (great year so far). What we have found is promising – most slough
perimeters are well-vegetated, providing good brood hiding and foraging
habitat. Seen any broods? Yes! Every pothole we have passed recently has ducks, but probably 90% of
them have broods as well. From here to
Turtle Lake that might be 75 potholes. And since most broods are hidden during daylight hours, it bodes well
for brood production. An official
estimate will be coming from North Dakota Game and Fish later this summer.
(Canada) Geese have long since been off nests but frankly we
have not seen as many gosling groups as in previous years. We have a pretty significant crop depredation
issue with geese so this might be OK. Our early goose season from mid-August to mid-Sept addresses this issue.
Because of low water levels the last few years muskrats have
vacated the area. This means less easy “happy
meals” for mink, coon, hawks and weasels, which in turn may put more pressure
on duck nest and brood predation. On the flip side the mice, voles and gophers
seem to be doing fine. “Nest buster” skunks seem in short supply as well, so
that can only help brood production. Porky sightings are thankfully rare as well –
we have not seen any on the ranch yet, but that may change when the hay comes
down. Coyote populations seem steady to increasing.
Our Game and Fish folks say the pheasant count in down
significantly statewide (see: https://gf.nd.gov/index.php/news/2497). We have not found that to be the case in our
area – based on the numbers of roosters we’ve seen on and off the property it
appears the birds are holding their own – similar to 2017 numbers. This spring may have been a bit too wet for
upland broods however, so remains to be seen how the brood count will turn out.
Have not noticed much in the way of sharpie or hun
production, but typically we don’t start seeing these birds until some of the
crop comes down, later this summer.
Our North Dakota Legislature DOES NOT meet this year, thus
reducing the chances of some oddball nonresident hunting scheme to be foisted
upon hardworking family hunters from out of state. In truth, the Legislature has been so busy
with oil and law enforcement and education issues that outdoor recreation
issues have taken a back seat in recent years. I have not heard of anything in
the works which might impact your hunting this fall – license fees and season
frameworks should be the same as last year. Licenses will be available on-line again -- no draw, no quotas. We
remain in the most exclusive waterfowl zone: Zone 2.
We also remain perplexed as to why Game and Fish has not loosened
up on deer tags here, as the herd has clearly recovered from getting smacked by
several rough winters in a row. Traveling at night has become hazardous again due to all the deer on the
roads – yet the state still only issued 58K licenses to over 110K applicants.
The feds have proposed a “liberal” waterfowl framework again
this year. This should mean a six bird limit with various species limits
contained within. See details here: https://www.fws.gov/birds/news/180202federal-register.php
The state could take a more conservative stance regarding
limits, but that is not likely. I expect
other federal regulations and season dates will be similar to 2017.
Booked your 2018 Waterfowl Hunt yet?We still have room for our free September Youth Waterfowl Hunt. We also have a couple of great slots open in October and a couple in early November. For details see: http://prairiesmokeranch.com/book-a-hunt.
Questions? Give Dan a call at 701-626-7637 or shoot me an email -- email@example.com.
Work those dogs!
Dan & Jeanie
Prairie Smoke Ranch
Butte, North Dakota