Late season conditions are shaping up favorably for pheasant hunters this December.
“As the season has progressed, we’re getting more reports of hunters seeing and harvesting birds,” said Tim Lyons, upland game research scientist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “In some areas, the season, which ends in just under a month, may just be starting to heat up.”
Wet weather and a late pheasant hatch may have led to a slower than expected start to the hunting season. As hunters are only allowed to harvest roosters, some hunters earlier in the season reported not shooting birds they flushed because the birds were too young to easily identify as roosters or hens. Now, birds that hunters passed on in the early season should be in full plumage.
Delayed harvest of row crops may also have factored into the slow start to the season. But things are looking up, because as harvest has progressed, ring-necks that previously escaped hunting pressure by moving to standing crops are now concentrated in grasslands.
What’s more, cattail sloughs should become more accessible as weather turns colder later in the season and wetlands freeze up. Late-season hunters who are willing to get into tougher-to-reach areas will have opportunities to harvest birds.
Regardless of whether any roosters are in the bag, another bonus of late-season pheasant hunting is getting away from the hustle and bustle of the busy holiday season.
“Pheasant hunting is a great way to stretch your legs and get into the fresh air and sunshine, particularly at a time of year when the days are shorter and many of us spend more time indoors,” Lyons said. “It can be an opportunity to introduce someone new to pheasant hunting.”
Earlier this year, the DNR reported a decline in pheasant numbers from roadside counts. Though some areas of the state are undoubtedly experiencing lower numbers of birds, many hunters are finding success despite the apparent decline in pheasant numbers.
On Dec. 1, the daily bag limit increased to three roosters, with a possession limit of nine roosters.
Hunters need a small game license and a pheasant stamp to hunt pheasants in Minnesota. A small game license costs $22 for Minnesota residents age 18 to 64, and the pheasant stamp costs $7.50. Pheasant hunters 65 and older need to buy a small game license for $13.50 but are not required to buy a stamp. Hunters age 16 to 17 must buy a $5 small game license but do not need to buy a stamp, and hunters under 16 can hunt pheasants without a license or stamp.
Hunters also can purchase a Walk-In Access (WIA) validation for $3 to gain additional public hunting opportunities on private land that is enrolled in the program.
Minnesota’s 2019 pheasant season is open through Wednesday, Jan. 1. Shooting hours are 9 a.m. to sunset. Additional details on pheasant hunting are available on the DNR’s pheasant hunting page.