At the Minnesota Governor’s Pheasant Hunt, this hunting party included, from left, Adam Prock, assistant chief of staff, Governor Mark Dayton and Nick Simonson, president of the Lyon County Pheasants Forever chapter.

At the Minnesota Governor’s Pheasant Hunt, this hunting party included, from left, Adam Prock, assistant chief of staff, Governor Mark Dayton and Nick Simonson, president of the Lyon County Pheasants Forever chapter.


To say anticipation was high for this past weekend’s Minnesota pheasant hunting opener is like saying an old rooster pheasant will run. With the state’s ringneck population having rebounded 68 percent, and the second annual Minnesota Governor’s Pheasant Hunt centering out of Marshall – an event coordinated in large part by the local Lyon County Pheasants Forever chapter – the southern quarter of the state took on a much more festive atmosphere than last year.

Pheasants Forever has an extensive network of biologists and national employees in Minnesota, to go along with its 75 resident PF chapters and 25,000 members. Here’s a compilation of their reports:

Dry (tough for dogs). Crops are largely out and fall field work nearly complete. Generally better than last year. Four roosters in the bag in the first two hours in Redwood County our group. Matt Holland, Senior Field Coordinator, Pheasants Forever

I hunted near Marshall and the public lands are in terrific shape out there. Most of the crops are out and the field work is also mostly done.  Hunters in the area moved birds and were able to put some in the bag.  It is extremely dry with tough scenting conditions. Chad Bloom, Southern Minnesota Regional Representative, Pheasants Forever

I would say that hunting in southwest Minnesota was excellent.  Most groups I talked to either shot their limit or had enough opportunities to do so.  Of course the hunting report could be misleading as far as actual population goes as many of the birds were concentrated in the remaining cover of CRP and other habitat areas with most of the crops being already harvested.  This left many roosters more vulnerable than previous opening weekends. The dry habitat conditions allowed many wetlands that are normally full of water to be readily hunted. Jordan Croatt, Farm Bill BiologistPheasants Forever

Most of my opening weekend’s hunting was focused on public Waterfowl Production Areas (WPAs) in Minnesota’s Stearns & Pope Counties.  It’s obvious we are in dire need of some rain as all the cattail sloughs were really dry and walkable.  In general though, the grass was in relatively good condition despite the drought.  There seems to have been enough localized and early season moisture to grow some pretty decent cover.  Also, most of the corn & beans have been harvested.  Unfortunately, we didn’t see a ton of birds.  This region was one of Minnesota’s few bright spots during the 2011 season as it boasts some excellent thermal cover, which was important for the birds during the severe winter of 2010/2011. However, as the Minnesota roadside counts indicated this August, the numbers are noticeably down in this region from a year ago.  Our group of seven hunters and nine dogs bagged 6 roosters on opening day, which was down from 13 roosters on the 2011 opener.  The birds we did find were either along the edges of picked corn fields or along the edges of cattails. Bob St.Pierre, Vice President of Marketing, Pheasants Forever

I hunted with my 6-year-old daughter and a friend on a Wildlife Management Area in Stearns County.  We shot three roosters in about an hour of hunting.  My daughter was too tired to continue after that, but it was great to have her out.  I would say we saw numbers similar to last year on the WMA we hunted. Most of the crops are out completely and appears habitat is decreasing fairly significantly in this area.  Heard mixed reports from hunters ranging from really good to worse than last year. Eran Sandquist, Regional Wildlife Biologist, Pheasants Forever

The question of the day in west central Minnesota wasn’t whether or not there were birds – it was “Can we get to them?” My party of 5 hunters and three dogs hunted public property in west central Minnesota and flushed roughly 12 hens and dropped 3 roosters on Saturday. A majority of the birds we found were in extremely thick cover due to the fact all of the crops are out and the birds had to find other secure areas to safely spend their afternoon. Andrew Vavra, Marketing Specialist, Pheasants Forever

After a successfully creeping up our limit Saturday in west central Minnesota, “Annie” (new pup) had her first experience with the infamous cattail sloughs in Minnesota’s Kandiyohi County, hunting WPA’s on Sunday. Poor (dry) scenting conditions and the thick cover proved too much for the inexperienced dog. Two of the four birds within gun range Saturday were very young and were hanging on the soft edges of crop/grassland or cattail/grasslands. Hunting the same property for opening bell, bird numbers seemed to be up. These numbers may be artificially propped up given crops were all out concentrating birds. - Rehan Nana, Public Relations Specialist, Pheasants Forever




Anthony Hauck is Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

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