COL Pheasant hunting likely to improve

By John Weiss

The Department of Natural Resources will do its August roadside counts for pheasants in the next few weeks, but one researcher is already saying bird numbers will be up this fall, possibly doubling since last year.

But then, last year was miserable for pheasants.

The winter of 2000-2001 was long, cold and snowy, and the spring was wet and cold. The winter killed some pheasants and left surviving hens weak, said John Giudice, a DNR research biologist in Madelia. The spring also killed some chicks.


The past winter, however, was unusually mild, and spring was much warmer and had less rain. "It certainly should be a good year," Giudice said.

Given good habitat and perfect conditions, pheasants can quadruple their numbers in a year, though that won't happen this year in the state.

The bigger question is what will happen with the new federal farm bill that was passed recently.

On the plus side, the Conservation Reserve Program, which pays landowners to not plant millions of acres of erodable farmland and plant grasses and trees, was expanded. This program was credited with much of the increase in pheasants in the past decade. While only time will tell how much the new CRP bill will help, if history is an indicator, it's going to be good, Giudice said.

On the negative side, the farm bill also increased the amount the government will pay in crop subsidies, and that could mean they will try to grow more just to survive. That could mean some habitat might be plowed under, Giudice said.

In the roadside counts, DNR officials drive certain roads at certain times at a set pace and count birds they see.

GROUSE OUTLOOK: The situation for ruffed grouse isn't as promising as that for pheasants.

The DNR surveys birds by driving specific routes in spring and stopping to listen for drumming sounds made when the male bird beats its wings to attract females. This year, 133 routes were driven in grouse territory.


This year, the numbers in this region were the same as last year -- 0.4 drums per stop, which is low. In the northeast counters heard 0.6 drums per stop, which is also about the same as last year. The north-central area was down 9 percent, and statewide, the decline was a decrease of 11 percent, down to 0.8 drums per stop.

Grouse numbers, which go in wide swings, are probably at their low point this year and could stay there for a few more years before bouncing back up, the DNR reports. That swing is most evident in the north, while it's not as pronounced in the southeast.

WOMEN IN OUTDOORS: A Women in the Outdoors seminar, sponsored by the National Wild Turkey Federation, will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 17 at the Zumbro Valley Rifle Club in Zumbrota.

The event is to help women 14 and older to learn or improve skills such as shooting bows or shotguns, orienteering and wild game cooking. The cost is $40 and includes lunch, use of equipment and a one-year membership in the program. For more information or to register, call (507) 285-0984 or (507) 365-8321.

CAMP RIPLEY BOW HUNT: The DNR is accepting applications for the 2002 Camp Ripley bow hunt that will be Oct. 17-18 or Oct. 26-27, with 2,250 permits for each two-day season. The deadline for applying via the Electronic Licensing System is Aug. 16.

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