Pheasant season opens today and a Department of Natural Resources expert predicts numbers will be down a little. D.N.R. pheasant biologist, Todd Bogenschutz, says pheasant numbers have been hit hard by the weather this year.
Bogenshutz estimates there will be around 100,000 hunters this year with a harvest of around 400 to 500,000 birds, compared to the 600,000 taken last year. He says bird numbers are down in the eastern and southern thirds of the state and hunters will "have to walk a fair bit" to find birds in some areas.
Bogenshutz says the slower harvest this year will also be a big factor. Bogenshutz says this will be first for him as 80% of the corn crop will still be standing — compared to a typical year when only about 40%of the corn is still standing. He says the pheasants like the standing corn as it provides food and cover for them.
Bogenshutz says the extra corn could make the early weeks of the hunt less productive than later in the season. He says anytime there is standing corn, it makes it a challenge, as the birds are good at evading hunters in that type of cover. Bogenshutz says there’s still plenty of reason to get out into the fields to hunt.
"You know, I think there’s some birds out there, I think you can still shoot your limit in any county in the state on the right day in the right area," Bogenshutz says. And he says the birds will move to the more traditional grass cover once more of the corn comes out of the fields. The pheasant season runs through January 10th.