WILLMAR -- The cool, dry spring that seemed to put everyone in a funk could be responsible for putting smiles on the faces of hunters come autumn.
Conditions this spring have generally been favorable for the nesting success of pheasants and waterfowl in the region.
Overall, nesting success for pheasants appears to be looking really good, according to LeRoy Dahlke, wildlife manager with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Willmar.
Cold, wet weather is the bane of young pheasants since they cannot control their body temperature in the first weeks of life. We've largely been spared those conditions since the first hatchings have occurred, he noted.
The young pheasants have not lacked for insects to devour, either.
It's too early to make any bold predictions for the upcoming pheasant season, but Dahlke noted that a successful spring hatch is especially important this year. Last winter took a toll on the adult pheasant population, and consequently a good spring hatch could help make up for the losses.
He said anecdotal evidence is encouraging for the nesting success of waterfowl, too, but there are some worries. The persistence of dry conditions has caused some of the smaller wetlands in the area to shrink, and that reduces the safety zone where ducklings can escape their predators.
He's also heard a mixed bag of reports from people tending to wood duck houses. Some have seen a decline, but reports for the prairie pothole region as a whole suggest there are good numbers of young, he said.
The spring weather has certainly not harmed the deer, but Dahlke cautions against expecting any big gains. Despite the reductions in the number of antlerless permits available in the region, we have not seen a big increase in the number of fawns.
Plenty of does continue to be harvested. Youths are able to harvest either sex, and it's believed that many adults are abusing this by shooting antlerless deer and tagging them with youth licenses. Muzzleloaders are also able to harvest either sex, and their increasing popularity means there is more pressure on antlerless deer.