The lack of snow in December could be big in turning around several years of declinging pheasant numbers. D.N.R. wildlife biologist, Todd Bogenschutz says seeing brown fields instead of white snowdrifts is important for the pheasant population

“This current winter for pheasants is exactly the kind of winter that we’ve been needing…the last couple of winters we’ve had anywhere from 20 to 30 inches of snow by the end of December, and this year is shaping up to be zero. I’d say our pheasant survival to this point is over 90%, so that’s awesome,” Bogenschutz says.

He says winter survival sets the stage for a good spring hatch. “Winter is pretty critical because it’s the first major crunch time they have to go through,” Bogenschutz says,”and so if we have bad winters and kill most of ’em, that’s pretty much the end of it. Certainly if they make it through the winter then what happens in the spring is also important.”

He says the more hens that survive the winter the more chance there is for success if there is a bad spring. The D.N.R. conducts an annual roadside survey in August, and that count found an average of seven birds last year for each 30 miles, down from 11 birds the year before.

Thought he population has been down, past history indicates the birds can bounce back quickly. “When we tend to have these kind of mild winters, followed by a good spring, we’ve see the population double and we’ve documented it several times over the last half century,” he said. “It’s definitely and awesome start, we’ve still got three months of winter to go yet, but it’s an awesome start for them, that’s for sure.”

The current pheasant season runs through January 10th.