Overall Outlook: After the better part of a decade of fantastic pheasant numbers in the Midwest – bird numbers aided by a strong Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) – pheasant hunters will be finding fewer ringnecks during the 2011-2012 pheasant hunting season.

Tough weather, from drought in Kansas to hard winters in the Dakotas, did its fair share to hurt pheasant populations, but it’s the 5 million fewer CRP acres than there was just four years ago that made sure pheasant numbers were bound to decrease, which they did in every major pheasant producing state. Pheasants Forever is advocating for a strengthened CRP and other federal conservation programs in preparation of the upcoming Farm Bill, but cannot do it without your support as a Pheasants Forever member.

Despite the decline, there are still millions of pheasants roaming the grasslands, fencerows and field edges in the heart of pheasant country. South Dakota will again be in a class by itself, while Kansas, Nebraska and North Dakota look to be next best. In other states, boot leather will have to wear thinner in the fields this year. But as veteran uplanders know, any day hunting roosters is a day well spent.

Iowa – While Waiting on Weather, a New Low

Coming off a season in which hunters bagged 238,000 roosters – a new record low for the state – Iowa’s August roadside survey count showed a decrease of nearly 40 percent, itself a new all-time low count. Read the complete Iowa Pheasant Hunting Forecast.

Minnesota – Winter, Spring, Habitat Loss Deliver Punch

A severe winter followed by a wet spring contributed to a significant decline in Minnesota’s pheasant counts, which are down 64 percent from last year according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The news is worse in southwest Minnesota - typically the state’s best pheasant range – where numbers fell 82 percent from last year. Read the complete Minnesota Pheasant Hunting Forecast.

North Dakota – Pheasant Numbers Down, Still a Top Destination

Like surrounding states, North Dakota’s pheasant population will be down in 2011, according to Stan Kohn, Upland Game Management Supervisor with the North Dakota Game & Fish Department. North Dakota’s roadside pheasant survey showed statewide total pheasants are down 36 percent from last year. Read the complete North Dakota Pheasant Hunting Forecast.

South Dakota – Big Drop, But Still Tops

South Dakota’s annual pheasant brood survey results revealed a 46 percent decrease in the pheasants-per-mile index from last year. Despite the drop, South Dakota still maintains the largest pheasant population in the country, and will again be the top destination for the traveling pheasant hunter. Read the complete South Dakota Pheasant Hunting Forecast.

Read the entire State by State Pheasant Hunting Forecast

- Anthony Hauck is Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauck.