Good news from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources if you are a pheasant hunter.
The agency's annual roadside pheasant survey indicated the bird's numbers "are booming compared to last year" and hunters should expect to see more pheasants when the season opens Oct. 10.
In a press release, the DNR said the roadside survey showed a 42% increase in the state pheasant index from 2019 and a 37% increase over the 10-year average. That included a 146% increase over last year in southwestern Minnesota.
Good spring and summer weather, relative to pheasant survival, was the key.
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"The weather this spring and summer was favorable for pheasants and enabled more hens to raise chicks, which drove the increase," said Tim Lyons, DNR upland game research scientist, in the press release. "We didn’t get hit by spring snow storms or heavy rainfalls like in 2019 and that really is what let hens nest earlier and be successful."
The DNR said the southwest part of the state should be great for pheasant hunting opportunities, while the west-central, central and south-central regions are all categorized as "very good."
The statewide average during the roadside count was 53.5 birds per 100 miles. The southwest road count tallied 90.5 birds per 100 miles, a whopping 146% increase over 2019. The west-central, central and south-central regions all reported more than 50 pheasants per mile.
“Successful nests earlier in the breeding season also means that chicks will be in better shape going into the fall and winter, which can improve their odds of survival,” Lyons said.
Weather causes annual fluctuations in pheasant numbers, while habitat drives long-term population trends, according to the DNR.
The DNR has been conducting a roadside count since 1955. It occurs in the first half of August, when wildlife managers and conservation officers in the farmland regions conduct the survey. This year’s survey consisted of 169 25-mile-long routes, with 153 routes located in the pheasant range, the DNR said.
According to the DNR, "observers drive each route in early morning and record the number of farmland wildlife game species they see. The data provide an index of species abundance and are used to monitor annual fluctuations and long-term population trends of pheasants, gray (Hungarian) partridge, eastern cottontail rabbits, white-tailed jackrabbits, mourning doves, Sandhill cranes, and white-tailed deer."