Pheasant Index Increases Across the State
With Minnesota’s pheasant season set to open up next month, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reported a 19 percent increase in the pheasant index across the state.
“Given the April snowstorms and heavy rains across a good portion of the pheasant range this year, it was surprising to see increases in the pheasant indices across so many regions,” said Lindsey Messinger, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist who coordinated this year’s survey. “It appears hens may have delayed nesting and chicks were able to tolerate the rain in most areas.”
Weather affects pheasant population the most, and the rainy spring and summer made it tough for pheasants.
The pheasant index increased in all regions except the south-central region, which decreased by 36 percent from 2017. The highest pheasant counts were in the west-central, southwest and central regions where observers reported 48 to 65 birds per 100 miles driven. Hunters should find the best hunting opportunities in these regions.
Although the population is on the rise, the DNR is concerned with the amount of land pheasants have for a habitat. The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) plays a large role in providing habitat for pheasants in Minnesota. The CRP pays farmers to remove environmentally-sensitive land from agricultural production and restore vegetation that will reduce soil erosion, improve water quality, and provide habitat for wildlife and pollinators.
Minnesota added about 82,500 habitat acres in the past year, many of which were CRP acres; however, nearly 297,000 acres of CRP may be lost within the next two years due to contracts that are set to expire.
Pheasant season in Minnesota opens Saturday, Oct. 13, through Monday, Jan. 1. During the 2018 pheasant season, the daily bag limit is two roosters through November, and it increases to three roosters on Saturday, Dec. 1. The possession limit is six roosters (increasing to nine roosters on Dec. 1). Shooting hours are 9 a.m. to sunset. Additional details are available at mndnr.gov/hunting/pheasant.
Other wildlife recorded in the DNR’s annual survey included:
- The gray partridge index remained similar to 2017 and was 50 percent below the 10-year average and 93 percent below the long-term average.
- The mourning dove index decreased 7 percent from 2017 and remained below the 10-year average and long-term averages.
- The cottontail rabbit index decreased 23 percent from 2017 but was 13 percent above the 10-year average and similar to the long-term average.
- The white-tailed jackrabbit index was similar to last year and remains historically low.
- The white-tailed deer index decreased 13 percent from 2017 but was still 19 percent above the 10-year average and 99 percent above the long-term average.