MINNESOTA—MORE BIRDS; MORE HABITAT, TOO
Forecast: Minnesota pheasant hunters can anticipate better pheasant hunting than they experienced last year. The state’s August roadside survey index increased 29 percent statewide over last year.
 
According to Nicole Davros, upland game project leader for the Department of Natural Resources, the mild winter, favorable weather during breeding season, and a slight increase in grassland habitat all played a role in the improvement.
 
Despite an increase during each of the last three years, the pheasant index for 2016 remains 14 percent below the 10-year average and 48 percent below the long-term average. The index is based on game sightings over 172 25-mile routes (151 routes in what is considered pheasant range).
 
Southwestern Minnesota, as usual, produced the most sightings of pheasants. The number of birds sighted was 25 percent higher than last year. The biggest improvements in the number of sightings occurred in the central region (72 percent), south-central (70 percent), and east-central (27 percent). In the southeast the index dropped 31 percent compared with last year.
 
Field Notes: “For the first time since 2011, total acres of undisturbed grassland habitat increased across Minnesota’s farmland region,” says Davros. The gains included more than 37,000 acres of CRP in pheasant range. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Waterfowl Production Areas and National Wildlife Refuges increased by more than 7,300 acres. State Wildlife Management Areas increased by more than 11,600 acres. Net habitat gains in pheasant range totaled more than 61,000 acres.
 
Season Dates: October 15, 2016 through January 1, 2017
 
Daily Bag Limit: 2; changes to 3 on December 1 through end of season
 
Possession Limit: 6; changes to 9 on December 1 through end of season
 
Helpful Links: