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Strege optimistic area pheasants came through the hatch OK

A rooster pheasant stands at attention. Jason Strege of the Glenwood Area DNR was optimistic that pheasants in the area came through their nesting season OK in what has been a wet spring in much of the primary pheasant range in Minnesota. (Gary Noon / Wikimedia Commons)

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conducts its annual roadside count on pheasants and other wildlife species in August.

The question of how well pheasant chicks came through their nesting season could be answered then. Hunters should get a real good feel come fall. As it stands now, Glenwood Area DNR assistant wildlife manager Jason Strege is at least optimistic that the birds have done OK through the bulk of their nesting season in areas of Pope and Douglas County in what was a period of June and early July that saw a lot of rain in other portions of the pheasant range.

"I'm hopeful," Strege said on July 9. "It's been wet, but we haven't been as wet as just a little bit south of here. They've been pretty big rain events and not all day, light, cold soakers. I guess I'm a little more optimistic than I am pessimistic on it. I've been seeing a few broods. They've been pretty good sized. Based on the size of the bird and age of the chick, they made it through those storms pretty decent."

Pheasants begin mating in April and May and lay eggs that hatch in approximately 23-25 days. Hens are persistent re-nesters. If they lose a nest to flooding or a predator, hens will lay another clutch until it successfully hatches or the bird runs out of energy reserves to lay more eggs. Once the chicks are hatched, the hen is done nesting for the season, even if those chicks are lost during the first few days of their lives.

The peak of the pheasant hatch typically occurs during the second week of June in Minnesota. Strege does not see the late spring where snow stuck around through much of April as having much of an affect on that date this year in the area.

"I suspect (the hatch) was pretty normal," he said. "It might have had a slight impact on pushing it back. I think it did for geese, for sure. They tend to nest a little early, a lot of times setting up on nests in April. I think the ducks and pheasants by and large are pretty normal, maybe a little later, but they typically don't initiate their nests in April. Once spring got here, it got here. It didn't dilly-dally that way."

Pheasant chicks are vulnerable during the first couple weeks of their lives. Long, cool rains can be especially harmful during that time period.

Areas of southern Minnesota, widely considered the best pheasant region in the state, saw storms come through in April that dropped huge snow falls. It was followed with a lot of rain in May and June, but Strege is cautiously optimistic that the west central area of the state around Alexandria has come through things a little better.

"Even the pheasants I think by and large pulled through," he said of a winter that started out mild before lasting longer than recent years. "A long winter can be really hard on pheasants, but I don't think it did this year, at least up here. You go a little south of here with the length of the winter and then how wet it's been, that could be a little different story."

Whitetail fawns also rely on the spring green-up to produce good cover to help avoid predation during the early days of their life. Strege was confident that, like area birds, they too came through this winter and spring in relatively good health in areas of quality habitat.

"The (fawns are) dropping in June and we had all of May to green up," Strege said. "I don't think there was any problem there. You could have some issue with as long as our winter was. That can start having some adverse effects, but it was really mild for the majority of winter. Based on what I'm seeing from fawn numbers and health of does, this is all anecdotal, but I don't think the long winter or late spring did anything bad."

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

(320) 763-1229
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