State pheasant hunters hope best yet to come

Madelia, Minn. – If you had a fantastic opening weekend of
pheasant hunting, harvest-wise, you’re in the minority.

Hot and humid weather in some places, cold and lightning and
thunder in others, and standing corn in many areas of the state
seem to have combined to make a pheasant season that opened with a
whimper.

It was pretty slow throughout the state, said Kurt Haroldson,
DNR pheasant research biologist.

“Not many reports of limits,” he said. “Less than a bird apiece,
in general, and a lot of people (weren’t) flushing a lot of
birds.”

Indeed, the vast majority of the state’s corn is still in the
ground, and rain earlier this week in many areas likely will delay
the harvest even more. Most people speculate roosters were in the
corn and, therefore, unavailable to hunters.

“Coincidentally, I went out (Monday), and at sunset and for the
next 20 minutes, you could just watch the birds sailing from the
corn and into the grass,” Haroldson said.

In the Windom area, hunters had some success, but the birds
moved to the corn quickly, said Randy Markl, DNR_area wildlife
manager in Windom.

There are plenty of pheasants, but temperatures in the 70s and
an abundance of corn made for a difficult hunt, he said.

“I think it was probably as expected,” Markl said. “Limits
certainly were had by some, but it wasn’t easy pickings.”

At the Lac qui Parle Wildlife Management Area, hunters averaged
about half a bird per hunter, said John Wollenberg, assistant
wildlife manager at the WMA. The temperature was in the 50s and
there was thunder and lightning a little before 9 a.m. opening
morning that might have sent birds heading for cover.

Still, most hunting parties had at least one rooster.

“They were seeing birds,” he said. “Nobody was complaining about
a lack of birds.”

Hunters last year killed 655,000 pheasants, and they’ve killed
more than half a million birds during four of the last five years.
Officials don’t believe this year’s take will be as high as last
year, but predict it will top 500,000.

As of last Friday, hunters had purchased 76,287 pheasant stamps,
and they can continue to purchase them until the season ends Jan.
4, 2009. More than 129,000 stamps have been sold in each of the
last two years.

Haroldson figures there will be a couple of forces at work as
the season wears on.

“It’s going to be kind of a blend of things, I suppose,” he
said. “We’ve already had some education that’s gone on, and that
makes birds more wary. On the flip side, as crops come out they
will become more vulnerable. And later, when we get snow, that
tends to move them into heavier cover such as (what we have on)
public land. Most of our public land has nice, heavy cover.”

Following are reports from conservation officers throughout the
state’s pheasant range:

€ Persistent rain made things tough in the Fergus Falls area
where hunters averaged about one bird apiece.

€ Hunting pressure in the Osakis area was extreme, though
harvest was noticeably down from the last couple years.

€ The season began on a quiet note in the Morris area and most
parties had a couple of birds.

€ There were some hunters in the Big Lake area, but not many
pheasants killed.

€ Hunting was spotty in the Marshall area, and hunters averaged
about a bird apiece.

€ There were a lot of hunters in the Willmar area, but few birds
in the bag.

€ Hunters in the Windom area averaged well under one rooster per
hunter.

€ Standing corn made for slow hunting in the St. Peter area.

€ Hunters in the Faribault area had little success.

€ Warm weather stressed dogs and hunters in the Rochester area,
and few birds were killed.

€ Corn and warm weather in Mower and Fillmore counties meant few
birds were taken.

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