Outdoors: State pheasant opener is Saturday

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 12, 2007

In each of the past two years, hunters in Minnesota have harvested nearly 600,000 roosters, the most since 1964. With favorable pheasant nesting and brood-rearing conditions this year and increasing habitat acres, Minnesota hunters can expect more of the same.

According to Pheasants Forever, the state&8217;s pheasant index remained at its highest level in 20 years.

Protected grassland habitats in the state&8217;s pheasant range account for approximately 6 percent of the landscape &8212; the highest number in more than a decade &8212; and those areas are the major contributing factor to the increased population.

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Hunters will take note of the southwest portion of the state, where observers reported 223 birds per 100 miles driven; the south-central, with 121 birds reported per 100 miles driven; and the west-central area, where 118 birds were reported per 100 miles driven.

Farm bill

With the 2007 federal farm bill being debated in Washington, D.C., Pheasants Forever notes strong pheasant numbers could be washed away without a strong conservation program in the bill.

The Conservation Reserve Program and other federal farmland conservation programs accounting for over 50 million acres nationwide are primarily responsible for the birds hunters will be chasing this fall. The 2007 farm bill will address land management decisions on hundreds of millions of acres of farmlands, grasslands, wetlands, prairies, forests and riparian areas, which will have a lasting effect on the nation&8217;s hunters and anglers.

Home-grown organization

Pheasants Forever formed in St. Paul in 1982. Minnesota now claims 73 PF chapters and over 22,000 PF members. Nationwide, over 650 PF chapters have spent nearly $200 million on wildlife habitat projects and education, benefiting wildlife on 4.4 million acres across the continent.


Pheasants Forever urges hunters to avoid the railroad&8217;s right of way this hunting season.

Often a nostalgic feature in wildlife prints, areas along railroad tracks have long been a favorite of pheasant, turkey and whitetail deer hunters.

But hunting near railroad tracks isn&8217;t only hazardous, it&8217;s also illegal.

&8220;Last year, 517 people have died while trespassing on railroad property,&8221; said Dennis Jenson, assistant vice president-chief of police for Union Pacific. &8220;As hunters head outdoors this year, we want to remind them that walking along the railroad&8217;s right of way is extremely dangerous because you never know when a train will come along. It is also against the law.&8221;

Trespassers on the railroad&8217;s right of way are subject to arrest for violating trespassing laws and can face jail time and a fine.


– Treat every gun as if it were loaded.

– Always keep your muzzle pointed in a safe direction.

– Know your target and what is beyond.

– Wear hunter orange.

– Always use non-toxic shot for migratory birds.

– Always ask permission before going onto private

– Become familiar with your state’s signage system. Know what signs indicate a state wildlife management area or federal waterfowl production area open to public hunting.

– Always consult state agencies for hunting rules and regulations before taking to the field. To find your state&8217;s wildlife agency, log onto .

Other states

South Dakota, which starts Oct. 20, has the makings of a banner 2007 pheasant season, with surveys indicating one of the largest pheasant populations in South Dakota history.

Brood count surveys by the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Department show an estimated population that easily surpasses the 40-year high mark set in 2005.

In Iowa, which starts Oct. 27, the pheasant population remains relatively unchanged in spite of a March blizzard, an ice storm and flooding during nesting season. Iowa could lose a lot of pheasant acres before next year as farmers meet ethanol demands without a new CRP in place.

Nebraska, which starts Oct. 27, expects a 5 percent decline from last year.

North Dakota, which opens Saturday, should see an increase, with one of its best years ever.

25th anniversary Pheasants Forever&8217;s National Pheasant Fest and 25th Anniversary Convention comes to St. Paul in January.

The country&8217;s largest event for upland hunters, sport dog owners and wildlife conservationists makes its way to the RiverCentre in St. Paul on January 18-20, 2008. The event will also be used to formally celebrate Pheasants Forever&8217;s silver anniversary.

National Pheasant Fest 2008 will also have a strong economic impact on the Twin Cities and future habitat efforts across the state of Minnesota and Upper Midwest. Omaha, Neb., officials estimated that the 24,205 people who attended the 2005 Pheasant Fest there had a $2 million to $2.5 million economic impact on the city.