Wednesday, February 8th, 2023
Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

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Pheasant opener: a bright beginning

Madelia, Minn. — When DNR researcher Kurt Haroldson first began
calculating pheasant data from the state’s August roadside surveys,
the results were enough to make him re-figure.

“When I ran the numbers the first time I thought I’d made a
mistake,” Haroldson said.

The results appeared rather upbeat for ringnecks, given the harsh
winter they’d endured, which included, in some parts of the
pheasant range, a snowfall of nearly 20 inches in late
December.

However, the 2010 pheasant index, according to a report filed in
early September by Haroldson and fellow researcher Molly Tranel,
indicated a pheasant population on par with last year.

The pheasant-hunting season opener largely reflected the
researchers’ findings. Reports were mixed, but in most areas of
southern Minnesota, hunters harvested a few birds.

Haroldson contacted DNR area wildlife managers on Monday,
requesting information about the early pheasant season.

“Nothing that anyone said indicated to me that the August roadside
counts were wrong,” he said. “If hunters put their time in, they
were finding birds.

“Overall, I was looking for any indication that we missed our
target (with harvest projections based on the August survey), and I
don’t think we did.”

Hunter numbers, too, appeared strong, Haroldson added.

As of early this week, pheasant stamp sales had reached 78,115,
according to the DNR License Bureau. Last year, about 79,800 were
sold at this time.

Opening weekend conditions, too, were a mixed bag. A year ago,
pheasant hunters faced the prospect of nearly no corn harvested in
southern Minnesota. This year, three weeks nearly void of
precipitation had allowed farmers to harvest almost all of the
soybean crop, and varying levels of corn.

“Over half of (the corn) is out,” said Wendy Krueger, DNR area
wildlife manager in Slayton. Tuesday, she said dry conditions
weren’t predicted to change until perhaps next week, allowing
harvest to continue in earnest.

However, the arid conditions also meant tough “sniffing” for
pheasant dogs. Dust flew as dogs charged through prairie forbs on
Saturday. The opener also was, for the most part, accompanied by
brisk winds across the pheasant range.

In some areas, including the Talcot Wildlife Management Area where
Krueger spent most of Saturday, heavy rains from nearly a month ago
made access difficult.

She checked hunters’ bags at the WMA on Saturday, and said harvest
there averaged .7 birds per hunter.

Sunday brought more sunshine and nearly still air, with a bit of
dew in the grasses when hunting hours arrived at 9 a.m.

“Sunday was much better, but there were fewer hunters out on
Sunday,” Krueger said.

In the August survey report, the DNR reported pheasant numbers
similar to last year, but about 20 percent below the 10-year
average. The department predicted a 2010 harvest similar to last
year, as well.

“Overall, the size of the fall population will be close to that of
last year, when approximately 400,000 roosters were harvested,” the
report said.

The winter of 2009-10 was the most severe in the pheasant range
since that of 2000-01, the report said. “Snow cover exceeded 6
inches throughout most of the farmland zone from mid-December
through early March, and snow depths exceeded 30 inches in parts of
southwest and south-central Minnesota for up to 7 weeks.”

The “saving grace” for pheasants likely was March, Haroldson said,
which was drier and warmer than average; by the end of the month,
most of the snow had melted. For the most part, spring nesting
conditions were favorable for pheasants.

Conservation officers from around Minnesota noted varying degrees
of success among pheasant hunters.

CO Todd Langevin, of Center City, said pheasants were seen, but
just a few were harvested. Similarly,

And in Benson, CO Neil Henriksen said many hunters were afield on
Sunday, hoping for better success than what was found on a
windy.

One of the better pheasant-hunting reports came from Montevideo CO
Ed Picht, who encountered several hunters with pheasant limits (two
daily).

Hunter fatality

CO Tony Anderson, of Morris, assisted the Stevens County Sheriff’s
Department with an investigation involving a hunting
fatality.

Anderson reported the hunter suffered a self-inflicted gunshot
wound when the man’s shotgun discharged by accident. The man’s
hunting companions called to report him missing when he didn’t
return from an afternoon  hunt.

The Stevens County Sheriff’s Department identified the victim as
68-year-old Kent Bank, of Minneapolis. He was found deceased at
about 8:20 p.m. on Oct. 16. Preliminary indication was that he died
of a shotgun wound to the abdomen, the report said. An autopsy will
be conducted.

In another incident, a city councilman from Virginia accidentally
shot and injured a top city official while the two were hunting
together near their northern Minnesota city.

The Mesabi Daily News reports that Virginia Councilman Charles
Baribeau and city operations director John Tourville were grouse
hunting on Saturday about 20 miles south of the town of Aurora when
a bird flew up and Baribeau fired one round. Tourville was struck
by about eight pellets in his face, neck, chest, arm and
hand.

The St. Louis County Sheriff’s office says the 64-year-old Baribeau
transported the 56-year-old Tourville to Fairview University
Medical Center-Mesabi in Hibbing where he was treated for
non-life-threatening injuries.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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