Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

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Standing crops don’t halt weekend pheasant action

By Joe Albert Staff Writer

Watson, Minn. – Pheasant hunters, it appears, believed the
pre-season hype.

While some escaped to the northwest to hunt deer, plenty of
hunters followed tradition and hit the fields for pheasants.

One conservation officer reported so many hunters in the field
that it looked like the sun was out. Counts at Lac qui Parle
Wildlife Management Area were high as well.

‘It wouldn’t surprise me if it was one of the highest car counts
we’ve ever had,’ said Dave Trauba, the WMA manager.

At Lac qui Parle, hunters averaged about one bird apiece. That
seemed to be the case around much of the state, as hunters
struggled with a corn crop that remained mostly in the ground.

‘The reports I heard were fair – it didn’t sound like too many
(groups) shot a bunch of them, but it seems like (most groups) shot
a couple,’ said Eran Sandquist, Pheasants Forever regional
biologist in South Haven. ‘People get really optimistic when they
hear about the high bird numbers, but the best hunting is yet to
come.’

Indeed, pre-season pheasant counts – conducted in August during
annual roadside surveys – were high. They were similar to last year
– when hunters killed 586,000 birds – and about 75 percent above
the 10-year average.

That likely contributed to a high number of hunters at Lac qui
Parle, Trauba said.

‘Our counts were very high going into the season – much higher
than even last year,’ he said. ‘We’ve always been kind of known as
a destination point, and our roadside counts were phenomenal. Word
gets out and people come in.’

The fields in the Cottonwood County area held plenty of hunters,
too, said Randy Markl, DNR area wildlife manager in Windom.

He described success as fair, and noted the amount of corn still
in the ground.

‘There was plenty of shooting, and from the folks I talked to,
pretty good numbers in the bag,’ Markl said. ‘Everybody was finding
some, at least at times.’

The weather was good to hunters in most places. In the Windom
area, for example, the low Saturday was 24 degrees, and it remained
cool and cloudy most of the day.

That was especially helpful to the dogs, Markl said, because the
area has been dry and there are few places for dogs to get a
drink.

‘Generally, it was cooler, which has been good for the dogs,’ he
said. ‘We’ve had 80- and 90-degree openers, and that’s not
good.’

Kurt Haroldson, DNR wildlife researchers in Madelia,
characterized the weather like this: ‘For an opener, this is the
nicest weather I can remember.’

While it allowed hunters to stay afield longer, the weather
didn’t necessarily lead to more birds in the bag.

The most common refrain: ‘Everybody is blaming the crops –
there’s too much corn in the ground,’ Sandquist said.

Trauba was surprised by the amount of corn around Lac qui Parle,
but said harvest – at about a bird apiece – still was pretty
good.

‘We’re interviewing people that don’t have dogs, people that
have good dogsŠ You’ve got the whole variety of hunters on the
landscape,’ Trauba said.

Conservation officers, mostly, reported a lot of activity around
the state, but reports of success varied. Here’s a sampling of
their reports:

Hunters around Moorhead averaged a bird apiece, and most said
they had opportunities to shoot a limit.

Nearly all the hunters around Fergus Falls had birds in the
bag, or opportunities to take birds.

Hunter numbers were lower than expected around Elbow Lake, and
groups averaged one bird.

Most groups of hunters around Alexandria had some birds in the
bag.

Hunters were disappointed with the number of pheasants they saw
in Stevens and Grant counties. No groups reported having a
limit.

Roosters were spooky around Glenwood, and the opener was ‘less
than spectacular,’ CO Kurt Nelson reported.

Pheasants were hanging around the standing corn and cattails in
the Albany area.

Hunters had minimal success around Long Prairie, as high winds
kept pheasants tight to cover.

Most hunters around Benson had at least a bird in the bag.

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