Pheasant numbers are on the rebound, bringing hope to Minnesota ring-neck enthusiasts.
Favorable conditions have led to improved pheasant numbers in Minnesota. (Credit a mild winter with improved nesting and available grassland habitat). In fact, the number of pheasants increased from last year, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. What does it all mean? Obviously, it’s good news for hunters.
Before we get to the hunting aspect, let’s focus on the issues concerning pheasant livelihood. The overall pheasant population is still well below the long-term average. There are a few reasons for that.
Declining Conservation Resource Program (CRP) acres are part of the problem. This is largely due to a decline in spending on the CRP program. Sources report that an estimated 393,000 acres may be lost by 2018. Look for the 2018 Farm Bill to address this situation.
Grassland habitat areas act as a mediator of sorts during this rebuilding phase. Along with wildlife management areas (WMA) and waterfowl production areas (WPA), these entities keep pheasants healthy.
One could suggest an grassroots analogy of sorts: where the grasses flourish, you’ll find pheasants.
Ring-necked pheasants thrive in grassy areas. There, they build their nests, which are so critical for reproduction. When birds cannot proliferate on their own, conservation efforts take effect.
“CRP is by far our most important private lands conservation program in terms of number of acres of habitat on the ground, and it is vitally important to helping make conservation happen in an important agricultural state like Minnesota” says Nicole Davros. Nicole is a research scientist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Although overall harvest numbers have been down for quite some time, there’s reason to be optimistic.
“We’ve had two back-to-back mild winters and two relatively good springs and summers in a row. There’s no doubt that this has really helped our pheasant population rebound, especially when you consider the habitat losses we’ve been facing since 2007 in Minnesota,” Davros said.
As pheasant numbers continue to surge, increased hunting opportunities will follow. The DNR’s August 2016 roadside survey data indicates a 29% increase in birds, compared to 2015. An index of 52 birds per 100 miles of road driven, was observed. The DNR has been monitoring pheasant trends with annual roadside surveys since 1955.
Hunters can expect a good pheasant harvest in all regions of Minnesota, except for the southeast part of the state.
The 2016 Minnesota pheasant hunting season begins begins Oct. 15 and concludes on January 1. For more information about pheasant hunting in Minnesota, click here.