Southern Minnesota pheasants and deer began the winter living large, with little snow on the ground until mid-December to cover waste corn and other food.
Those conditions ended with an exclamation point when a blizzard swept across the bottom third of the state Sunday, doubtless killing some wildlife species and stressing others.
But so far in key southern Minnesota pheasant hot spots, many if not most birds seem to be surviving.
“Our area lucked out on this last storm,’’ reported Amber Knutson, Department of Natural Resources assistant area wildlife manager in Marshall. “We missed all the snow and freezing rain that was predicted prior to Sunday, so we just had high winds, which blew a lot of snow around.’’
A tour of areas surrounding Marshall on Monday revealed “quite a few pheasants coming out of winter cover to feed’’ in open areas, Knutson said, adding on a positive note that, “The birds that were on the roadsides moved readily as we passed, with most fluffed up instead of raggedy wet looking.’’
Lac qui Parle area wildlife supervisor Curt Vacek was also relatively upbeat Tuesday.
“Pheasants are out of their winter cover and desperate for food,’’ he said. “The fields where they’re feeding only have a base of a few inches of snow, and the snow is disappearing on some of those flats. As long as they’re finding some food and getting back to cover at night to roost, they’ll be OK.’’
Vacek and his staff have found some dead deer.
“The herds are definitely grouped up tighter than most years,’’ he said.
What’s needed, he said, are a few sunny, 20-degree days.
“Hopefully the winter doesn’t linger much longer,’’ Vacek said.
Scott Rall agrees. Near Worthington, where he is a longtime Pheasants Forever chapter leader, “There’s probably 2 feet of snow on the level,’’ he said.
“I don’t think the deer around here are suffering too badly yet,’’ Rall added. “Pheasants? We’re not seeing many. But two hens were brought in dead about five days ago to the area DNR office, where they were examined and still had noticeable fat reserves. There were no signs of starvation. So that was good.
“What we need is a break in the weather.”