Thursday, January 26th, 2023
Thursday, January 26th, 2023

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Upcoming pheasant season looks good

By Joe
Albert
Associate Editor

New Ulm, Minn. – Pheasant hunters in the state last fall
harvested as many birds as they had during any season since
1964.

The total was about 588,000 pheasants, which was about 3,000
more roosters than in 2005, and the third time in four years that
harvest exceeded half a million birds.

All indications are that another stellar season is ahead, and
most predict the only question is how high above 500,000 the
harvest will climb. Pheasant season opens this Saturday, Oct. 13 at
9 a.m. and runs until Jan. 1, 2008.

‘There are plenty of birds, and people are seeing a lot of
roosters across the countryside,’ said Ken Varland, DNR regional
wildlife manager in New Ulm. ‘We expect, depending on the weather,
a really good opener even with the corn out there because there are
plenty of birds.’

Indeed, the results of August roadside counts – about 107 birds
per 100 miles – were similar to 2005 and 2006, and were about 48
percent above the long-term average.

According to a DNR pheasant prospects map, the southwestern and
a swath of the central part of the state have the highest
concentrations of birds.

Pheasant production appears to have been good this year, and
some of the best habitat probably has reached its saturation point
in terms of production, Varland said. Where habitat is marginal,
officials, anecdotally, have seen a greater increase in the numbers
of pheasants, he said.

Nicollet County, for example, doesn’t have the best habitat,
Varland said, but, ‘there are pheasants everywhere. Not in high
numbers, but across the landscape.’

Aaron Kuehl, a Pheasants Forever regional biologist, has talked
to hunters in the southeast part of the state – an area that’s
traditionally without high pheasant populations – and they have
told him that ‘these are far better than they’ve ever seen,’ he
said.

But Kuehl, as well as Eran Sandquist, another of the group’s
biologists, has heard positive reports from throughout the state’s
pheasant range.

‘It’s going to be a phenomenal year,’ Kuehl said. ‘We are going
to kill a pile of roosters the first two weeks of the season.’

Among the biggest unknowns is how much corn will be left
standing in the fields. Standing corn affords pheasants a place to
escape during the day, and also a place to find cooler conditions
should the weather be warm.

As of Sept. 30, about 15 percent of the corn had been harvested.
At the same time last year, about 4 percent had been harvested. In
some places, more corn has been harvested, but significant rainfall
during the last week or so has slowed the harvest.

Still, much of the corn is mature and farmers want to get it out
of the fields before it gets damaged, said Randy Markl, DNR area
wildlife manager in Windom.

‘They are going to go back at it pretty fast,’ said Markl, who
noted there’s been more corn harvested to the east than the west of
Windom.

Markl said hunting prospects in his area are about the same as
they’ve been for the past couple of years. Production there also
was good, though bird numbers are more reflective of the fact that
many hens made it through the winter, rather than big or early
pheasant broods.

Bob Meyer, DNR area wildlife manager in Marshall, figures the
corn in his area is about one-third harvested, but said the ground,
as of Monday, was wet and muddy. Still, he expects a season on par
with the past several.

And while soybean harvest doesn’t play as big a role as does the
corn harvest, it, as of Sept. 30, was 40 percent complete, which is
about 14 percent higher than the five-year average.

While there were discussions of increasing pheasant limits
during the previous legislative session, the daily bag limit
remains two roosters, and six roosters in possession. Shooting
hours are 9 a.m. to sunset.

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