Sunday, January 29th, 2023
Sunday, January 29th, 2023

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Pheasant season ahead: Good, but not like 2007

Madelia, Minn. – Pheasant hunters are unlikely to surpass last
year’s take of 655,000 birds, but officials expect this season,
which begins Saturday, to be another good one.

Opening weekend and the early days of the season, though, could
be tough, since corn and soybeans largely remain in the ground.

“The birds are there, I believe, but the thing we also have this
year is essentially all the corn is still standing and many of the
soybeans are as well, so there are lots of places for the birds to
go besides the grass,” said Kurt Haroldson, wildlife research
biologist for the DNR. “On the flip side, we have a very long
season – 86 days – and you can argue that’s a good thing, that it
will spread the distribution of the harvest out over a longer
portion of the season.”

The season runs from Oct. 11 through Jan. 4, 2009.

Roadside counts in August showed a 24-percent drop in the
pheasant index from last year, but the number of birds per 100
miles – 81 – is in line with the 10-year average.

The index was higher than 100 birds from 2005 through 2007. Last
year’s index of 106 birds per 100 miles correlated with the highest
harvest since 1964.

“I would expect somewhere in the neighborhood of 500,000
roosters in the bag this year,” Haroldson said.

If that’s the case, it would be the fourth consecutive harvest
of half a million roosters or more, and the fifth time in six
years. For the last two years, hunters have purchased more than
129,000 pheasant stamps each year. That number probably will dip a
little this year, given the decline in the state’s estimated
pheasant population, Haroldson said.

But many hunters will take a wait-and-see approach.

“If we have a really outstanding opener, it will encourage more
of the casual hunters who might not hunt to come out,” he said.

According to roadside surveys, the southwest part of the state
likely will offer the best pheasant hunting, though the west
central, south central, and east central parts of the state are
expected to be good.

Haroldson, though, predicts a slow opener, harvest-wise, due
mostly to the amount of crops still in fields. According to the
National Agriculture Statistics Service, about 1 percent of the
state’s corn has been harvested, compared to 13 percent at the same
time last year. Soybean harvest is progressing, but 8 percent had
been harvest, which compares with 32 percent last year.

“If people find it’s not very good on the opener because of all
the crops in the field, it’s not a big deal,” Haroldson said.
“There is a lot of opportunity (because of the season’s
length).”

Early snowfall also could affect the total harvest, since fewer
hunters are in the field when the winter sets in, he said.

Still, those hunters who brave the elements will have the
opportunity to take three roosters, the result of legislation
passed earlier this year. While officials won’t know how many
roosters are killed because of the bag limit increase, it won’t
hurt the pheasant population.

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