Friday, January 27th, 2023
Friday, January 27th, 2023

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Pheasant opener: results as expected

Marshall, Minn. — In a number of ways, it would be fair to say the Minnesota pheasant-hunting opener, 2013, was much what was expected by hunters before they went afield. That’s not to say they were wading through southern Minnesota grasslands with high hopes.

DNR wildlife managers and conservation officers say August roadside counts, which indicated a likely decrease in the number of pheasants within their habitat range, were largely on target. Further, there was the possibility late-hatched pheasants went uncounted in August, and opener hunters also encountered young birds, substantiating to some extent that theory.

“(Hunting) activity was high on Saturday,” said Wendy Krueger, DNR area wildlife manager in Marshall. “I traveled around a cluster of (state wildlife management areas) in the area, and every one I went to was full-up.”

Krueger said she eventually found a WMA that had room for a single hunter and her bird dog. However, she said she failed to roust a single rooster on opening day.

Krueger didn’t hunt again until Sunday afternoon, after much of the out-of-town hunting traffic had left the area. Then, she said, she hunted one hour – and killed a two-bird limit.

“I think people were hitting it pretty hard on Saturday, but by Sunday were heading home,” she said.

From a limited number of reports, Krueger said she heard about poor hunting, and some fair hunting. But no sterling hunting reports. A local conservation officer called the hunt, in a word, “pathetic.”

Crop harvest, or lack thereof, likely played a role in the availability of pheasants.

Unlike last year, when an early spring and midsummer drought combined to allow farmers to remove crops in record time, there remained the majority of corn, as well as some soybeans, this hunting opener.

“The later corn harvest is what’s hampering things right now,” said Bill Schuna, DNR area wildlife manager in Slayton, of the pheasant hunt.

Conditions weren’t necessarily ideal on the Saturday opener, but they weren’t unusual for the Minnesota prairie: cool, sunny, and windy. Day Two, Sunday, brought with it calm air and mostly sunny skies.

It’s likely participation dropped somewhat this year given the dire forecast; the August Roadside Survey indicated a 29-percent decline from last year’s count. Further, the count was 64 percent below the 10-year average. Given the survey results, it was expected pheasant hunters in the state would harvest in the neighborhood of a quarter-million roosters this year.

According to the DNR, the number of pheasant stamps purchased as of last Friday was down about 10 percent from the number that had been bought at this time a year ago.

State conservation officers were able to best monitor pheasant hunter success during the first weekend of the season.

Here are a few of their observations:

• In the New Ulm area, CO Thor Nelson reported high winds and standing corn hampered success, but “almost every hunter reported seeing birds.”
• CO Matt Loftness, of Marshall, writes in his report, “Pheasant hunters struggled, with most hunting parties averaging less than one rooster per hunter.”
• Tony Anderson, of Morris, wrote in his report that “the number of pheasant hunters dropped significantly from openers of years past. Poor weather, poor pheasant numbers, and the confusion of federal WPAs closed and then not closed are likely all factors.

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