Extremely slow harvests of corn and soybeans likely will dampen pheasant hunters’ prospects when they go afield Saturday, opening day of the state’s 2017 ringneck season.
So little corn has been taken from Minnesota fields this fall that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) didn’t publish a harvest percentage Tuesday when it released its weekly crop progress and condition report.
“Last year, 13 percent of the corn was harvested at this time in Minne-sota, and the five-year average is 26 percent,” USDA statistician Dan Lofthus said. “This year there’s a little harvest being done statewide, but it’s not enough to publish a percentage.”
Recent cool, wet weather has impeded farmers’ efforts, Lofthus said.
About 22 percent of state soybeans have been harvested, meanwhile, compared to 61 percent at this time last year and 63 percent for the five-year average.”
Pheasants typically loaf in soybean and particularly cornfields during the day, before returning to thicker-cover areas near sundown.
If there’s good news in the report, it’s that many birds that otherwise might have been harvested in the season’s first days will survive until November and December, providing action for late-season hunters.
Surveys too bleak?
West, southwest and west-central regions of Minnesota represent some of the state’s best pheasant country this fall, according to Department of Natural Resources (DNR) roadside surveys conducted in August that said pheasant numbers are down 26 percent from a year ago.
The population drop might have been caused by an early May snowstorm that could have wiped out some hen pheasant nesting attempts. If so, affected hens would have re-nested, and they and their surviving chicks might not have been counted as readily as older broods during the August surveys.
In that case, the percentage population drop from a year ago might not be as severe as the DNR counts indicate.
Governor to Marshall
Hunting begins at 9 a.m. Saturday.
Gov. Mark Dayton will host the Governor’s Pheasant Opener this weekend in Marshall. Events Friday include an evening banquet, followed by hunting Saturday morning.