By Chris Schultz Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Minn. December 13, 1999
Roosters were in the air in good numbers
Although ruffed grouse numbers seemed to be down a bit and duck hunting was poor, many bird hunters in Minnesota still ended up being some pretty happy campers - those hunting pheasants anyway.
Pheasant numbers were excellent, and in some areas of the state, better than what the DNR had expected.
In September, when the DNR came out with its August roadside counts, it expected very good hunting and bird numbers in the southwest, fair to good hunting in our neck of the woods, and a slight rebound in numbers and better hunting in the west central region of our state.
In the southwest, Windom to Worthington, bird numbers were very good and the hunting was the best I have found in Minnesota since the early '80s.
In my opinion, and factoring in that most crops were off the fields before the Oct. 16 opener and hunting conditions were super, bird numbers in the southwest were even higher than the DNR had predicted. On the opener and for several weeks into the season, two bird limits in only an hour or two of hunting were common in that area.
On one hunt in the Lamberton area, I mentioned to a DNR conservation officer that the hunting pressure was exceptionally light that afternoon. He commented that there were many hunters out in the morning, and that I wasn't bumping into them because most of them had their limits by 11 a.m. That conservation officer also confirmed my opinion that there were more birds than originally predicted.
On a final note for the southwest, although Conservation Reserve Program acres were down, any area that provided decent cover, carried a good number of birds.
In our area, McLeod, Wright, Sibley, Carver, and Meeker Counties all provided some good pheasant hunting.
Birds weren't here in the numbers they were in the southwest, but numbers were definitely up from last year. Again, good cover and habitat produced a good number of birds.
Also, quite a few local hunters I spoke with opted on not heading to other states, like South Dakota, to hunt this year. They felt pheasant hunting in our area and in other parts of Minnesota was so good they didn't have to go far from home to find birds.
This season, Angus and I hunted in our area on three separate occasions for about an hour each time. On each hunt, we bagged our two roosters and put up at least 20 birds. That's good pheasant hunting in any part of the midwest.
Moving on to the far western parts of our state, let's say Montevideo to Ortonville, where there are vast amounts of upland cover, I was surprised by the bird numbers.
Last season, because of horrible winters in '96 and '97, this area, which had been the hotbed for Minnesota pheasant hunting, was almost devoid of birds.
In '98, just putting up a couple of birds was a good day. This season, because of a mild winter, excellent spring nesting conditions, and good amounts of quality habitat, pheasants made a big comeback.
In my opinion, and with several trips out there under my belt, bird numbers were, again, higher than what the DNR predicted. Although conditions were dry, and opening day results for hunters were somewhat poor, many hunters reported good bird numbers and excellent hunting throughout much of the season.
I would also like to throw in my two cents' worth on other parts of our state's pheasant range, like the south central and southeast, but I never made it to those areas this season and I didn't get a chance to talk to any hunters who did. In most cases, the hunting in the other areas mentioned above, kept pheasant chasers busy enough.
In conclusion, and most certainly the best part of this little pheasant hunting report, there is still time left. Minnesota's pheasant hunting season doesn't close until Sunday, Dec. 19.
- It's time to start thinking about ice safety. Many of the smaller lakes in our area became covered with ice Dec. 6. Remember that no ice, especially early ice, is safe.
- The Winsted Sportsmen's Club will meet Tuesday, Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. at Tom's Corner Bar in Winsted.
- The Wright County Chapter of Pheasants Forever will have a corn giveaway for pheasants and wildlife Saturday, Dec. 11 from 8 to 11 a.m. at Lampi's Auction located at Hwy 55 and Wright County Rd. 6. Bring your own containers. Quantities may be limited due to demand. For more information, call 320-274-2676.
- Be prepared for winter and carry a winter survival kit in your vehicle.
- Minnesota's ruffed grouse hunting season closes Friday, Dec. 31.
- Several hunters and trappers from the area have reported a much larger number of coyotes in our area than seen in years past.
- For the next few weeks, I will probably be taking a short break from writing this column. My wife and I, along with our daughter, Abbi, and of course Angus, are expecting (any day now) an addition to the family. So, if I'm not in the paper for awhile, I and my family wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a very happy holiday season.