Monday, October 14, 2013

2013 Minnesota Pheasant Opener Recap

Expectations were low for this past weekend's pheasant opener in Minnesota.  The winter of 2011 was a tough one that really decimated the population in a good patch of the state.  To rebound, pheasants needed a short, warm winter with very little snow.  Unfortunately, the winter of 2012 was the exact opposite.  Winter lasted forever, their feed and cover were buried under snow, and the pheasants came through the season as one would expect - with not may survivors.

However, the ringneck pheasant is a hearty breed, and a good nesting season - one with warm temperatures and little rain - could mean that the broods raised by the few surviving hens would have a good chance of making it to adulthood.

Again, Mother Nature spit in the eye of that plan, as the spring was cold and rainy for months.

Thus, when our little party of three hunters and four yellow dogs headed afield on Saturday afternoon, in a light rain no less, we estimated the number of birds we'd see as three.  Personally, given the lack of birds we had seen and heard, I took the "under."  Especially since basically none of the corn in the area had been harvested, and standing corn, a favored locale of the wily ringneck due to its feed and security, is basically impossible to hunt.   

But by our third field portion, we had flushed our first hen.  A couple of hundred yards later we flushed a bona fide rooster, and while our shots weren't true, it was a thrill to see him.

By the end of our shortened hunt (as stated, it was raining and we were soaked), we had harvested three young roosters, seen a couple of more, and had probably seen a dozen birds altogether; far more than the 3 we had projected.

Does that mean it will be a good season?  Hardly.  The bird numbers are definitely down.  One can tell by just listening to the lack of rooster crows in the morning.  But what is does mean is that this bird is just a lot tougher than we give him credit for being.   

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