Gary Hauck and his Labrador retriever, “Ace,” were a proud pair after teaming up on their first rooster of Minnesota’s 2013-2014 pheasant hunting season in Lac qui Parle County. Photo by Anthony Hauck / Pheasants Forever
Minnesota pheasant hunters found a bit more elbow room in the fields this past weekend, the product of gloomier preseason population reports and standing corn fields. Our small sampling of bird hunters was pleasantly surprised by numbers, and also encouraged to see many young pheasants, indicating a late hatch was pulled off in various portions of the state.
Hunter: Troy Dale, Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist, Fergus Falls, Minnesota
Area Hunted: Southwest Minnesota
On Saturday our group of three guys and three dogs hunted private land in Lincoln County. With the blustery winds and most of the corn still standing, we toughed it out for a couple hours and tried to give the dogs something to work with. We ended up with one very young rooster. Driving around in the afternoon, I noticed hunter numbers seemed extremely low.
Sunday brought a new location and a different outcome. The three of us decided to walk a new Walk-In Area access parcel (WIA) just a few miles from our private land. The WIA had some quality grassland cover and it turned out to be a successful stop for us. Weather conditions were perfect. With no wind and heavy dew, the dogs were able to get great scent as we ended up with more than 20 solid points from that one field. We managed two birds, but most of the others were too young yet to properly identify.
Grassland habitat is definitely down a significant amount from years past, however this shouldn’t stop anyone from taking to the field. With the right conditions, we still kicked up a number of birds on Sunday. The amount of standing corn and soybeans is keeping most birds out of sight right now. With the number of late hatches we had this spring/summer, it’s actually a good thing the birds are staying to the corn right now. This will give them a chance to mature and make for some great late season hunts.
The best advice I could give for this year would be to not overlook the Walk-In Access parcels. This program is really getting going, and hunters will find some high quality grasslands with great management, courtesy of private landowners, to hunt this year.
Hunter: Rehan Nana, Public Relations Specialist, Pheasants Forever
Area Hunted: Southwest Minnesota
Hunting with buddy Trevor Bear, a Pheasants Forever member and volunteer, we went out near Pipestone. We focused our hunting mainly on Walk-In Access areas and Wildlife Management Areas. Of the three openers I’ve hunted in Minnesota, this was the best in terms of what I was expecting and what actually happened.
We had one in the bag within the first five minutes and missed a couple more on the first walk. We consistently put up birds and ended up with our limit at the “Witching Hour.” For reference, Trevor hunted the same places during last year’s opener and came up a few birds short of a limit. Birds were all very young and we passed on most throughout the day because we couldn’t identify. Within the first five minutes on Sunday, we pushed 40 birds out of a shelter belt, but managed to miss everything. Soon after this, temperatures climbed to the mid-sixties, there was no wind for the dogs and things started to slow down.
Corn harvest was just starting in the area. Most Walk-In Access areas looked fantastic but take note, a few had been hayed.
Hunter: Chad Bloom, Southern Minnesota Regional Representative, Pheasants Forever
Area Hunted: South-central Minnesota
I was down at the Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener near Madelia. We started at a quiet state Wildlife Management Area (WMA). We put up two birds and the other gentleman that hunted the other side of the WMA put up three – all roosters. We hunted for about an hour and a half then drove around the Madelia area checking out other areas. The public grounds we drove by looked to be in terrific shape. The wetlands were full with ducks on the pond. Food plots looked to be in great shape as well.
Hunter: Bob St.Pierre, Vice President of Marketing, Pheasants Forever
Area Hunted: West-central Minnesota
My group focused exclusively on Waterfowl Production Areas (WPA). I was very surprised by the amount of birds we encountered. There were a lot of hunters out and we heard a lot of shooting to start Saturday morning. We had four in the bag at the first WPA by 11AM when the rain started to fall. We put another three in our vests in heavier rains at the second WPA before heading back to camp to change clothes and wait out the weather. Thankfully, the sun showed itself for golden hour and the birds were on the move to roost. In the end, we come up one rooster short of our limit. Sunday brought perfect weather and only slightly less birds. We didn’t come close to our limit, but that was the result of some inconsistent shooting. There were plenty of roosters willing to flush in front of our collection of Labs, shorthairs, Brittanys, and goldens. All in all, the bird numbers were a lot better than my expectations and we saw a ton of juvenile, puffball-sized birds that will color out in the coming weeks.
Anthony’s Antics Afield is written by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.organd follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.