Minnesota farmers made significant progress on the corn harvest last week, but a large amount of corn still is standing between hunters and pheasants, according to the latest USDA Crop Progress and Condition Report.

“Hopefully the weather stays nice and farmers can keep getting out there,’’ said Kevin Lines, Pheasant Plan coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Lines said wet field conditions have hampered early hunting by giving added cover to ringnecks. But as more crops are leveled, success rates should increase, he said.

“We still anticipate a good year,’’ Lines said.

As of Monday, the statewide corn harvest was measured at 55 percent, advanced from 31 percent of corn harvested a week ago. But the combines are running six days behind last year, when 74 percent of the corn crop already was down at this time, according to the report. In relation to the five-year average, the corn harvest is three days behind the norm, the report said.

Soybean harvest, meanwhile, is 95 percent complete — nearly on par with the average.

Lines said there isn’t a way for the DNR to track week-to-week rooster kills, but anecdotal evidence suggests hunters will be able to rally when the grains are put away. Going into the season, which started Oct. 15 and runs through Jan. 1, official roadside counts by the DNR showed an overall increase in birds of 29 percent.

With the exception of the southeast corner of the state, which rated poor, all other areas of the pheasant range showed strength in numbers compared to recent years, the DNR has said.

Steve Michaels, the DNR’s director of license sales, said 62,291 hunters had purchased pheasant stamps as of Tuesday.

Black Friday treat

For the second consecutive year, state officials will wave entry fees at all 75 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas on Black Friday, the traditional start to the Christmas shopping season.

The alternative-to-shopping concept originated last year when specialty outdoors retailer REI closed its stores and gave its employees the day off. REI is repeating the practice.

 

Tony Kennedy • 612-673-4213