An evening drive recently along the Minnesota-South Dakota border suggests that water will again play a role in pheasant hunters' prospects this fall.

Last year was extremely wet in parts of Minnesota's farmland, and across much of the prime pheasant range of South Dakota.

As a result, many farmers couldn't get into their fields to get their corn and other crops out. Hunters were often left on the outside looking in — not only unable to get into fields to hunt, but even to drive down some mud-slick backcountry roads.

Plenty of ran has also fallen this spring and summer. The surprise is that pheasant numbers, according to wildlife officials in the Dakotas and in Minnesota, have held up pretty well.

A case can be made, in fact, that pheasant hunters have been spoiled in recent years, with high bird numbers registered pretty much throughout the Midwest, with the exception of Iowa, which really has fallen on hard times with its ringneck population.

After all, how many birds do you need? If walking for a couple of hours produces a few flushes and perhaps one crack at a rooster, I'm generally happy. Spending an entire day, in fact, to pick up a couple of birds shouldn't be too much to ask. They call it upland hunting for a reason, and a good pheasant hunt well done should include an appreciation not only of the land types that pheasants require, but of the work necessary to put a bird or two in the hand.

Granted, in many places, larger shoots involve less walking and more shooting. And these can be fun, also. But there's something to be said for a hunting process that uses up a lot of hunter and dog energy, passes a good portion of a fall day, and proves challenging in all respects.

These are wild birds, don't forget, not the kind raised in pens.

Addendum: Pheasants Forever really has put together a great state-by-state guide to pheasant hunting. To check it out, click here:


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