Posts Tagged ‘Marshall’
Tuesday, July 1st, 2014
Heavy rains have fallen in recent weeks in the Marshall, Minn. area. A pheasant destination for resident and nonresident hunters alike, many are wondering how excessive rain totals – more than 20 inches in some areas of southwest Minnesota, and more than 10 in the Marshall area in the month of June – could be affecting the pheasant hatch.
Nick Simonson, president of the Lyon County Pheasants Forever chapter, posed these questions to Nicole Davros, upland game project leader for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources:
Q: In what condition was the pheasant population coming out of the winter months?
A: Our pheasant population made it through winter better than expected, and we had very few reports of winter losses. Although winter 2013-14 brought severe cold and some deep snow, it helped that the cold and snow didn’t come at the same time in the core of our pheasant range (west, southwest, and south-central portions of the state).
The central and east-central portions of our state had it worse as they experienced extreme cold and deep snow for a good portion of the winter. I’ve been hearing roosters crowing off of every corner of every Wildlife Management Area that I’ve visited this spring and summer.
Many of our wildlife managers have reported the same. I’ve taken this as a good indication that our pheasant population made it through winter just fine.
Q: What impact do you anticipate this rainy spring to have had on nesting attempts up to this point for pheasant hens in southwestern Minnesota?
A: We typically start getting reports of broods in late May, but that hasn’t happened this year and we’re instead only now beginning to get a few reports of young broods. Our brood observations to date could be indicative of a delayed hatch, or they could be indicative of reduced chick survival due to the recent rains. If enough hens have been delayed or forced into re-nesting, such that hatching has been delayed, this could end up being a positive as it would mean the peak hatch was offset from the onslaught of rain we had last week. Too much rain in a short period of time, especially when paired with colder temperatures, can lead to reduced chick survival, especially during the first few weeks of growth.
Q: Do you expect mostly eggs to have been destroyed by recent rains, or was there a period where some broods hatched, but were then taken out by spring weather events?
A: It is really hard for us to know the answer to that question. Again – we didn’t have reports of broods in May like usual so this could indicate that the hatch was delayed compared to a “typical” year.
Further, roosters are still crowing like crazy! And we’re not seeing that many hens, which serves as an indication that they are still incubating their clutches or are in deeper cover with their young broods. So I’m willing to speculate the hatch has been delayed based on weather conditions in early spring and based on what we are currently seeing now. Overall, I worry more about the rain affecting young chicks than eggs. Hens are very faithful to their nests. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that they only take one 20-30 minute break throughout the day during incubation, and they most certainly will stay on their eggs to keep them warm and dry during a rainstorm.
The one caveat to my concerns about rain affecting chicks more than eggs is that much of our remaining habitat is on low ground, so the major rainstorms we’ve had may be wiping out those nests on lower ground. And if there is one positive to all this rain, it’s that it hasn’t been paired with too cold of temperatures such that eggs or chicks would’ve gotten too cold.
Q: Last season’s pheasant hunting was saved by a very late hatch. What is the timeframe of the drop-dead latest hatch we can expect in southwestern Minnesota in a given year?
A: I wouldn’t put a date on a “drop-dead latest hatch.” Nothing would surprise me. Hens are known to be persistent re-nesters in that a hen will keep laying a fresh (albeit slightly smaller) clutch if her previous eggs are lost. However, if she successfully hatches a clutch and loses her chicks, she won’t re-nest.
In fact, last fall we had a report of birds that were generously estimated to be 3 weeks old at the start of the early duck season. Backdating with that information, those eggs would have been laid at the very end of July and the chicks would have hatched at the end of August or early September! However, late-hatched birds may have lower survival rates through winter. For example, they may not have enough time to put on fat reserves before an early-season snowstorm hits. They may also have less time to learn their environment than birds hatched earlier in the year, which may also give them a survival disadvantage once the snow hits.
Q: Without a solid hatch, what is your prognosis for the 2014 pheasant hunting season in southwestern Minnesota, based on the variables we have experienced in the past year, up to this point?
A: I’m not yet ready to speculate on how our population will look going into the fall. We’ll just have to wait and see what August brings! I’m less concerned about the timing of the hatch than I am about our habitat conditions. The simple fact is that we’ve lost a lot of CRP. We need to figure out a way to make conservation economically viable for private landowners.
Q: At what point should people be concerned that most hatches failed?
A: A late hatch is better than no hatch!
Even though we saw fewer birds in August during our roadside surveys last year, we speculated that hens were still on nests or under heavier cover with their young broods. And that turned out to be the case as many people were pleasantly surprised at how many birds were available come the pheasant season. Despite a rough opening weekend due to weather conditions, I received many reports that pheasant hunters who kept at it for the entire season were able to get their limits. They worked hard for the birds they got, but the birds were out there!
Overall, I think we need to be more concerned about the loss of habitat that has occurred over the past several years. In 2007, our pheasant harvest peaked at 655,000 roosters – the highest total harvest since 1963! Although this has been partially offset by gains in other cropland retirement acres (CREP, RIM, and WRP) and state- and federally-owned acquisitions, our pheasant harvest has been steadily declining nonetheless. And the worst CRP losses are yet to come. That’s the scary part.
Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Monday, October 15th, 2012
To say anticipation was high for this past weekend’s Minnesota pheasant hunting opener is like saying an old rooster pheasant will run. With the state’s ringneck population having rebounded 68 percent, and the second annual Minnesota Governor’s Pheasant Hunt centering out of Marshall – an event coordinated in large part by the local Lyon County Pheasants Forever chapter – the southern quarter of the state took on a much more festive atmosphere than last year.
Pheasants Forever has an extensive network of biologists and national employees in Minnesota, to go along with its 75 resident PF chapters and 25,000 members. Here’s a compilation of their reports:
Dry (tough for dogs). Crops are largely out and fall field work nearly complete. Generally better than last year. Four roosters in the bag in the first two hours in Redwood County our group. - Matt Holland, Senior Field Coordinator, Pheasants Forever
I hunted near Marshall and the public lands are in terrific shape out there. Most of the crops are out and the field work is also mostly done. Hunters in the area moved birds and were able to put some in the bag. It is extremely dry with tough scenting conditions. - Chad Bloom, Southern Minnesota Regional Representative, Pheasants Forever
I would say that hunting in southwest Minnesota was excellent. Most groups I talked to either shot their limit or had enough opportunities to do so. Of course the hunting report could be misleading as far as actual population goes as many of the birds were concentrated in the remaining cover of CRP and other habitat areas with most of the crops being already harvested. This left many roosters more vulnerable than previous opening weekends. The dry habitat conditions allowed many wetlands that are normally full of water to be readily hunted. - Jordan Croatt, Farm Bill Biologist, Pheasants Forever
Most of my opening weekend’s hunting was focused on public Waterfowl Production Areas (WPAs) in Minnesota’s Stearns & Pope Counties. It’s obvious we are in dire need of some rain as all the cattail sloughs were really dry and walkable. In general though, the grass was in relatively good condition despite the drought. There seems to have been enough localized and early season moisture to grow some pretty decent cover. Also, most of the corn & beans have been harvested. Unfortunately, we didn’t see a ton of birds. This region was one of Minnesota’s few bright spots during the 2011 season as it boasts some excellent thermal cover, which was important for the birds during the severe winter of 2010/2011. However, as the Minnesota roadside counts indicated this August, the numbers are noticeably down in this region from a year ago. Our group of seven hunters and nine dogs bagged 6 roosters on opening day, which was down from 13 roosters on the 2011 opener. The birds we did find were either along the edges of picked corn fields or along the edges of cattails. - Bob St.Pierre, Vice President of Marketing, Pheasants Forever
I hunted with my 6-year-old daughter and a friend on a Wildlife Management Area in Stearns County. We shot three roosters in about an hour of hunting. My daughter was too tired to continue after that, but it was great to have her out. I would say we saw numbers similar to last year on the WMA we hunted. Most of the crops are out completely and appears habitat is decreasing fairly significantly in this area. Heard mixed reports from hunters ranging from really good to worse than last year. - Eran Sandquist, Regional Wildlife Biologist, Pheasants Forever
The question of the day in west central Minnesota wasn’t whether or not there were birds – it was “Can we get to them?” My party of 5 hunters and three dogs hunted public property in west central Minnesota and flushed roughly 12 hens and dropped 3 roosters on Saturday. A majority of the birds we found were in extremely thick cover due to the fact all of the crops are out and the birds had to find other secure areas to safely spend their afternoon. - Andrew Vavra, Marketing Specialist, Pheasants Forever
After a successfully creeping up our limit Saturday in west central Minnesota, “Annie” (new pup) had her first experience with the infamous cattail sloughs in Minnesota’s Kandiyohi County, hunting WPA’s on Sunday. Poor (dry) scenting conditions and the thick cover proved too much for the inexperienced dog. Two of the four birds within gun range Saturday were very young and were hanging on the soft edges of crop/grassland or cattail/grasslands. Hunting the same property for opening bell, bird numbers seemed to be up. These numbers may be artificially propped up given crops were all out concentrating birds. - Rehan Nana, Public Relations Specialist, Pheasants Forever