Pheasant season also gets underway soon in neighboring states. Here’s a look at hunting prospects in Minnesota, South Dakota and northeast Montana.

Minnesota

“Mixed bag” describes Minnesota pheasant prospects for the season opener Saturday, Oct. 12. Some areas in the state’s pheasant range will have plenty of birds, while the going will be tougher in other areas, the Department of Natural Resources predicts.

Results from summer roadside surveys showed a 17% decline in the overall pheasant index from last year, the DNR said, 11% below the 10-year average and 60% below the long-term average.

The survey yielded an index of 37.4 birds per 100 miles.

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“Though some regional and statewide pheasant indices declined, there is still reason to be optimistic,” said Tim Lyons, upland game research scientist for the DNR. “Birds are still abundant in some areas. But after a prolonged winter and wet spring, hunters may need to be choosier about where they go.”

Despite the overall decline throughout much of Minnesota’s pheasant range, the south-central region saw a 24% increase in its pheasant index, while numbers in the east-central region were up 13%, the DNR said. The highest indices were in the west-central and south-central regions, where observers tallied 43 to 49 birds per 100 miles driven.

Fair hunting prospects can be found in portions of the southwest and central regions, the DNR said.

Minnesota pheasant hunting prospects. WC stands for west central, SW is southwest, C stands for central, SC is south central, EC is east central and SE is southeast. (Minnesota DNR)
Minnesota pheasant hunting prospects. WC stands for west central, SW is southwest, C stands for central, SC is south central, EC is east central and SE is southeast. (Minnesota DNR)

  • Season dates: Saturday, Oct. 12-Wednesday, Jan. 1.

  • Bag limit: 2 roosters through Saturday, Nov. 30; 3 roosters from Sunday, Dec. 1 through Saturday, Jan. 1. Possession limit twice the daily limit.

  • Shooting hours: 9 a.m. to sunset.

  • More info: mndnr.gov/hunting/pheasant.

South Dakota

When it comes to pheasants, South Dakota still rules the roost, and birds remain plentiful despite a tough winter and wet spring, according to South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks

Statewide, the Pheasants Per Mile index for this year’s brood survey decreased by 17%, from 2.47 to 2.04, which is 43% lower than the 10-year average, GFP said in its 2019 Pheasant Brood Survey Report. Rooster numbers were up 2%, while hens decreased 21% and total brood numbers decreased by 21%.

The Aberdeen, Sisseton and western South Dakota area Pheasants Per Mile numbers increased slightly from 2018, while the Pierre, Mobridge, Huron, Mitchell and Brookings areas saw significant declines. The Yankton, Sioux Falls, Watertown, Sisseton and western South Dakota areas are not significantly different from the 10-year average, GFP said.

  • Season dates: Saturday, Oct. 5-Wednesday, Oct. 9 (youth only), Saturday, Oct. 12-Monday, Oct. 14 (residents only) and Saturday, Oct. 19-Sunday, Jan. 5 (traditional).

  • Bag limit: 3 roosters daily; possession limit accruing at rate of 3 birds daily up to 15, and 15 may not be possessed until after the fifth day of hunting.

  • Shooting hours: Noon Central Time to sunset Oct. 12-14 and Oct. 19-25; 10 a.m. Central to sunset remainder of season.

  • More info: gfp.sd.gov.

Northeast Montana

Pheasant numbers are moving in the right direction, but after several tough years, it will take more than one season for a full rebound, Pheasants Forever reported in its state-by-state pheasant forecast.

In the northeast part of the state, hunting should be better than last year but likely will lag behind what hunters got used to during previous years, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks predicts. Spring surveys in the eastern and western third of the region tallied populations that were below average, with slightly above average numbers in the central part of the region. Favorable weather during the peak of the hatch in June likely bolstered populations, but numbers in most areas likely will remain below long-term averages.

  • Season dates: Saturday, Oct. 12-Wednesday, Jan. 1.

  • Bag limit: 3 cock pheasants daily; possession limit is 3 times the daily bag limit.

  • Shooting hours: Half-hour before sunrise to half-hour after sunset.

  • More info: fwp.mt.gov.

-- Herald staff report