December offers good pheasant hunting
Pheasant hunters can expect to see some roosters in the fields this December, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
"We've encountered some wet weather this season, but once the ground freezes, we can expect some really good hunting conditions," said Scott Roemhildt, DNR roadsides for wildlife coordinator.
A wet fall kept farmers out of their fields until after the pheasant season had begun. The abundance of row crops remaining in the field gave Minnesota roosters much more cover through the first part of the season. With the fieldwork mostly finished, hunters can look forward to seeing roosters.
On Dec. 1, the daily bag limit increased to three roosters with a possession limit of nine roosters.
Pheasants are still using grassland cover and haven't appeared to move to winter cover just yet. Pheasants will move to winter cover such as cattail sloughs or willow thickets once grasses get pushed down by snow or heavy rains.
Roemhildt said that snow shouldn't scare hunters away, because a light snow can make it easier to find roosters in winter cover, and hunting access improves once cattail wetlands freeze up. The recent much colder temperatures may lead to just that freeze-up that's beneficial to hunters.
Nicole Davros, a DNR wildlife research scientist, said conditions are shaping up nicely for the last part of the season, and there are still plenty of birds out there. The 2016 pheasant roadside survey showed a 29 percent increase over 2015.
"We saw more birds this year on our surveys, and many hunters are seeing good numbers of birds in the fields, too," Davros said. "We're hoping that means good success for pheasant hunters through the rest of the season."
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.
Minnesota's 2016 pheasant season is open through Sunday, Jan. 1. Shooting hours are 9 a.m. to sunset. Additional details are available at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/pheasant.