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Scott M

Should be a great pheasant year

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Doug Smith, Star Tribune........

It should be another banner fall for Minnesota's 119,000 or so pheasant hunters.

For the third consecutive year, the state's pheasant population remains near its highest level in 25 years, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources roadside pheasant survey, released today.

Hunters are expected to shoot more than a half-million ringnecks for the fourth time in the past five years.

They haven't experienced that kind of hunting since the early 1960s, when they commonly harvested more than 1 million birds yearly.

"This is really new territory for us," said Kurt Haroldson, a DNR wildlife biologist.

The pheasant boom is attributed to six consecutive mild winters, good spring nesting weather and a steady amount of habitat. The weather has been key.

"We've acquired Iowa weather over much of the pheasant range," Haroldson said.

The pheasant index (107 birds per 100 miles of survey driven this year) topped 100 for the third consecutive year. That hasn't happened since 1962-64, during the pheasant heydays. The index was slightly below last year's index of 115 birds per 100 miles -- which was the highest in 20 years.

Minnesota's pheasant season begins Oct. 13 and ends on Jan. 1.

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