Weather doesn’t stop great pheasant opener

Staff Writer

Ortonville, Minn A steady rain and gusty winds greeted hunters
across most of the state’s pheasant range as the 2003 season kicked
off last Saturday. While the rain may have been untimely, it did
little to dampen the spirits of pheasant hunters in most areas.

According to reports from conservation officers throughout the
state, hunter participation for this year’s opener was noticeably
higher than it has been for several years. Most COs attribute the
increase in hunter numbers to preseason predictions, which
indicated pheasant numbers are as high as they’ve been in quite a
while.

In some locations, those predictions seemed accurate. In other
portions of the pheasant range, birds were tough to find. But in
most areas, there were plenty of hunters looking for the colorful
birds.

“We have a lot of public hunting land and it all got pounded
over the weekend,” said Ortonville area conservation officer Bruce
Nelsen. “I don’t know where everybody came from, but there were a
lot of pheasant hunters out this way.”

Nelsen thought the wind and rain might have limited the harvest
on opening day. Even so, there were quite a few birds flushed, and
Sunday provided the perfect setting for pheasant hunting.

“There were birds taken out here over the weekend, and I did see
a few limits,” Nelsen added. “I’d say that the northern Lac qui
Parle area held more birds than the immediate Ortonville area.”

Glenwood Area Wildlife Supervisor Kevin Kotts estimated pheasant
hunters averaged “about one bird each” opening day.

The best reports he heard on opening weekend came from portions
of the pheasant range that lie just to the west and south of
Glenwood.

“It sounded like the hunting was really good the farther south
and west one went,” Kotts said. “Everyone I talked with seemed to
be satisfied with the number of pheasants they saw.”

Conservation officer Tim Jenniges worked the Windom area and
heard nothing but good reports over the weekend from this area of
southern Minnesota. Even though he encountered quite a few wet
hunters on opening day, they all appeared happy with the start of
the season.

According to Jenniges, limits were common for most smaller
groups, while the majority of larger groups also encountered more
than enough pheasants to forget about the wet and windy
weather.

“It was a sea of orange down here it’s been a while since I
encountered so many pheasant hunters on opening weekend,” Jenniges
said. “It was a very, very good opener, and everyone was talking
about all the birds they saw.”

Reports were just as encouraging from Jackson County, which lies
just south of the Windom area. Most groups harvested pheasants
despite heavy hunting pressure on most public hunting areas.

Conservation officer Mike Gruhlke was impressed with the number
of birds that were harvested throughout the Jackson County area. He
also was surprised by the number of hunters he checked that weren’t
from the immediate area.

“Most of the people I checked throughout the weekend were from
other parts of the state,” Gruhlke said. “I’m pretty sure the
quality pheasant hunting in Jackson County is no longer a
secret.”

Most encouraging is that it’s still early. While crop harvest is
ahead of schedule in many areas, there still is quite a bit of corn
standing, especially in the southern half of the state’s pheasant
range. Gruhlke believes the best hunting is yet to come.

“Overall, it was a good opener in most locations,” he said. “But
it’s only going to get better once all the crops are removed.”

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