Looks like a good pheasant hatch but rain is needed
By Eran Sandquist
Sparked by a short and mild winter along with a respectable amount of upland habitat in Minnesota, there was a lot of optimism going into the spring nesting season for pheasants.
But drier than average conditions that began in 2020 have persisted this spring and summer, with most regions of the state only receiving a fraction of their normal precipitation. The following map illustrates the percentage of normal rainfall received between April 1 and June 22.
Dry and warm conditions are generally welcomed by those hoping for a strong pheasant hatch during that peak period of early June. But what Minnesota has been experiencing up to and after that is unlike what many have ever seen in their lifetimes, resulting in lawnmowers that have not been used in weeks.
Most, including me, are just fine with less lawn mowing. But for agricultural producers, whose livelihood depends on rain -- and for pheasants, who rely on that same moisture for strong habitat and good insect forage for chicks– the conditions are very concerning. Here is the drought map:
Pheasant reports have been coming in from across Minnesota, some of which suggest a very strong hatch, with broods being observed as early as late May. Further, many folks have reported seeing large broods with as many as 12 to 14 chicks, while others report broods with only a handful of chicks.
That excitement was tempered a bit as dry conditions have persisted after the peak hatch, leading many to wonder if the forage base of insects was sufficient to provide that critical protein for those young and growing chicks. Habitat quality could also be in jeopardy in some places that are especially sort of rain. Crops need that rain too.
Currently, most of the state is in a moderate drought with pockets of severe drought. There was a little relief for Minnesota farmers and pheasants when a cold front pushed through right after the Fourth of July weekend and brought more seasonal temperatures along with a little moisture.
While folks were likely hoping for more rain, most are in the “we will take whatever we can get” mentality at this point.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ late-summer roadside pheasant count will provide valued data and insights into the drought’s effects on the birds. Until then, hang on and hope for some much-needed moisture to help the farmers, the upland habitat, the insect forage base, and the chicks.
Eran Sandquist is State Coordinator for Pheasants Forever in Minnesota