Minnesota pheasants grew in abundance this year on a statewide basis, but heavy rainfall and flooding took a toll on the birds in the south-central portion of the state.
The news -- released today as part of the 2018 Minnesota August Roadside Survey -- is encouraging to hunters, wildlife managers and Gov. Mark Dayton, who launched an action plan in 2015 to preserve pheasant hunting for future generations.
The survey’s range-wide pheasant index of 45.5 birds per 100 miles of roads driven by observers was up 19 percent from 2017 and was similar to the state’s 10-year average. The big exception was a 36 percent decrease in the index since 2017 in the south-central region, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reported.
“It’s generally good news,’’ said Nicole Davros, wildlife research scientist for the DNR.
Minnesota’s rebound in pheasant numbers is in line with similar reports from wildlife agencies in South Dakota and Iowa. The pheasant index counts roosters, hens and chicks and is part of a larger survey that measures the relative abundance of deer, jackrabbits, partridge and other wildlife.
Huge increases in the abundance of pheasants in central and west central Minnesota (95 percent and 51 percent, respectively), offset the beating the birds took in the southern part of the state. In the southwest, a core area of Minnesota’s pheasant range, relative pheasant abundance increased only 5 percent from 2017.
The 2018 hunting season for roosters begins Oct. 13 and runs through New Year’s Day. The sport has suffered considerably over the past 50 years with steep declines in pheasant habitat. This year’s index of 45.5 birds per 100 miles driven is still 52 percent below the long-term average of 93.7 birds.