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Many birds seen Saturday were immature, including this rooster bagged near Madelia during the Governor’s Pheasant Opener.

Doug Smith • Star Tribune,

Pheasant hunters still optimistic despite dreary opener

  • October 16, 2013 - 12:24 AM

MADELIA, Minn. --

High winds, rain, a sea of unharvested corn and a smaller ringneck pheasant population — that’s not exactly a recipe for a successful Minnesota pheasant opener.

And it wasn’t, by most accounts.

Near Marshall in the southwest, “Pheasant hunters struggled, with most hunting parties averaging less than one rooster per hunter,” reported conservation officer Matt Loftness.

Action was “very slow” near Montevideo, “poor to fair” near Slayton and “slow” near Glenwood. Near Willmar, officer Jeff Denz checked a number of pheasants hunters, but saw only one ringneck in the bag.

But hunters in much of the south had blue skies and no rain Saturday — “near perfect conditions,” said conservation officer Gary Nordseth of Worthington. Still, “With bird numbers down and a lot of corn still in the field, roosters were hard to come by,” he reported.

After covering the Governor’s Pheasant Opener near Madelia on Saturday morning, I hunted with a partner in the afternoon. For several hours, hunting various public lands, we flushed only one hen. But then we arrived at a small state wildlife management area at 4 p.m., and we flushed 18 birds in the next 2½ hours, bagging three roosters.

Like other hunters around the state, we saw many immature birds with little coloring.

Still, it was an encouraging start to the season. Optimistic pheasant hunters also will note that most cornfields hadn’t been harvested, meaning hunting could be better later in the season as birds move from protected cornfields back to grasslands.

DOUG SMITH

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