If you lived through the winter of 2019-20 in the northern strongholds of pheasant country, you got a little worried for the birds as the weeks marched on, snow really piled up, and several arctic episodes sunk down on the countryside.
But not to fear: Across pheasant range, the birds toughed it out (a credit to our favorite gamebirds’ resiliency after more than a hundred generations of survival in America) … but it sure was a help when winter seemed to ease up and melt away just when that was most needed.
The rains of 2019 may have challenged the birds in producing broods last spring and summer, but one positive effect of the generally moist conditions can’t be denied going into 2020: habitat was in prime shape going into winter and coming into spring, with residual cover standing strong on the landscape. And then spring and early summer came: not too cold, not too wet, fairly warm.
You can see it in the roadside pheasant counts and surveys coming out of states like Iowa, North Dakota and Minnesota: Where there’s good habitat, there are simply more birds on the landscape to hunt after a good hatch and brood-rearing season. South Dakota, Kansas and Nebraska will still be good destinations, though the Great Plains are dealing with some habitat challenges from dry conditions. In places like Michigan and Illinois, hard work by PF chapters is paying off with more habitat on the ground, and that means more birds.
If there’s a bottom line here, you know it: It’s habitat. Good habitat. So here’s what we’ll leave you with:
If you’re reading this forecast, you must hunt pheasants. If you hunt pheasants and don’t belong to Pheasants Forever or you need to renew, it’s time. Give back to the habitat and the birds, and show your support. Since inception, PF has impacted over 19 million acres of habitat, and created over 200,000 acres of permanently public wild places to hunt and recreate. Upland habitat, public lands and hunting heritage need you. Join, renew or extend and for a limited time get a sweet PF Field Hoodie to boot!
Here’s to cackling roosters and happy dogs on bluebird autumn days. Have a great hunt!