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Winter cited as factor in the area's decline in pheasant numbers

NEW LONDON -- Pheasant hunters in west central Minnesota will find fewer birds to chase this season, based on the annual, roadside counts conducted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in early August.

"Disappointing'' but expected, is how Jeff Miller, assistant wildlife manager with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources described what they found.

A harsh winter followed by a brutal, late season ice storm, as well as abnormally wet conditions in June, took their toll on the birds, said Miller. The annual roadside survey conducted by the DNR wildlife staff found bird numbers down across the board.

The DNR is expected to release statewide results of the annual roadside counts later this week.

Miller said the numbers of birds seen on routes in Kandiyohi, Chippewa and Meeker counties, as well as the Lac qui Parle wildlife area, were down significantly from last year. Last year's numbers were not great either, so the population drop from a couple of years ago is significant.

Most telling of all, the majority of the birds that were spotted were lone males. They typically can outcompete hens and their broods when conditions are tough. There were very few chicks seen, he said.

The pheasant season opens Oct. 15.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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