Four of us headed to a farm near Madison,, Minn., last weekend for Minnesota’s pheasant season opener. Reports from farmers in the area had indicated the pheasant population was up quite a bit from last year, and we found that to be true.
We are fortunate to be able to hunt private land. We were able to get our four-person limit of eight roosters on Saturday, opening day, and picked up five more roosters the following day. We missed a couple of birds we should have had on Sunday.
Conditions were extremely dry, and on Sunday, when the wind was up, tracking was tough for the dogs. On Monday, three of us hunted for a couple of hours and flushed no roosters within range despite having two seasoned Labs in front of us.
So, our assessment is that hunting is much better than last year nothing like the good years in the mid-2000s.
A friend said he spoke with a Department of Natural Resources conservation officer in the Ortonville area on Monday. The officer had seen just 14 roosters on opening day in the bags of hunters he checked, and even fewer on Sunday.
We spoke to three hunters who were hunting public land near Madison on Sunday morning, and they hadn’t taken any pheasants, they said.
Those areas in west-central Minnesota were supposed to be have some of the highest pheasant counts in the state, so it’s hard to say how the season will unfold. Those areas received more than an inch of rain this week, so that will likely improve conditions.
Many of the wetlands are dry or nearly dry, and the cattails at the edge of those wetlands provide more cover for pheasants than they do in typical year.
Be sure to carry a couple bottles of water for your dogs if you’re hunting pheasants this fall. You’re not likely to find many places where the dogs can get a drink from natural sources.
A friend of mine has hunted the past two days (Thursday-Friday) at the same place where we hunted over the past weekend. The weather has been rainy with winds up to 35 mph or more. Two of the hunters scratched out three birds on Wednesday despite those tough conditions.
All of the corn and soybeans have been harvested, so the birds are in the sloughs, willow runs and grasslands now. Some of the CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) grasslands have bee mowed and baled, so cover is diminished from previous years.