Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz

Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake Herald, Minn.

October 6, 1997

Minnesota pheasant hunting

There are four major factors that determine the quality of a pheasant hunt: the number of birds, the number of hunters, the number of places available to hunt, and the weather.

Minnesota's pheasant season opens at 9 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 11 and hunters who head to the fields should find good weather, plenty of places to hunt, and very few hunters.

Regarding those three factors, the opener and season should provide some good quality pheasant hunting. However, the number of birds, will present a problem.

Although we had good conditions this spring for nesting, our second straight severe winter has taken its toll on our pheasant population. According to the DNR, numbers in some areas of the state are down as much as 40 percent from last year. When compared to 1995 the numbers are even worse.

In fact, because of the low estimates on population numbers, the excitement surrounding the pheasant season is so low that many pheasant hunters will not even make an effort to walk through pheasant cover in Minnesota this fall.

The far western and southwestern parts of Minnesota (where pheasant hunting is traditionally the best) got hit the hardest by the blizzards of last winter and numbers are estimated to be drastically down.

In our area, the numbers are also down. But, prospects for hunting are considered to be much better than in most parts of the state. Southeastern portions of the state also fall in this category.

No matter how you look at it, pheasant numbers across the state are down and wherever you choose to hunt, roosters will be harder to come by.

Regarding the four factors that determine the quality of a pheasant hunt and this year's opener, the best bet for hunting will still be in western Minnesota.

Although western portions of the state did get hit hardest by last winter's weather, the amount of good pheasant cover to hunt out there is almost unbelievable. Because of that pheasant numbers always seem to be higher then the DNR estimated.

There's enough good public hunting land to handle a large number of hunters and even on lean years like this one, pockets of birds can be found and hunting can be good to excellent.

For example, last year four of us with three good dogs headed out to the Ortonville area for the opener. Hunting pressure was heavier then in recent years, but was still light.

In a day of hunting we bagged six roosters and saw a good number of birds - all on public land. In Minnesota, that's a good pheasant hunt, especially on what was supposed to be a down year.

With 15-plus years of experience pheasant hunting in western Minnesota, I expect this year's hunt on the opener to be similar to last year, but with fewer hunters. It may take a little more work to bag a few roosters, but that's all part of the fun.

Minnesota's pheasant season closes on Dec. 14. The daily limit is two cocks, the possession limit is six cocks, and hunters in the field must wear blaze orange. A visible portion of one article of clothing above the waist must be blaze orange.

Shooting hours are 9 a.m. to sunset throughout the season.

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