Young pheasants trying to escape the morning dew. (DNR photo)

A dry April and May have set things up for a big boost to the pheasant population this year.

DNR wildlife research biologist, Todd Bogenschutz, says everything is falling into place for a good hatch, including a winter with below-normal snowfall to start out. “Hen survival should have been a little better than average — more hens coming into the nesting season is good. And rainfall wise, we are also below normal.” Bogenschutz says. He says rainfall was the lowest it has been since 1994.

We are in the time of year when birds are nesting and starting to hatch their young. Bogenschutz is already hearing good reports.
“Up toward Clear Lake, a hen with 17 chicks about sparrow size. That’s a heck of a nest because a normal nest is only about ten to 12. We had a couple of reports like that with people finding nests with 17 to 18 eggs in them,” according to Bogenschutz.

He says the recent conditions have been good for hatching the eggs and keeping the young pheasants alive. “The warmer it is and the drier it is the better it is for the chicks when they first hatch,” Bogenschutz says. “They can’t regulate the first week of lay to ten days. So if it is warm and dry, then it is much easier for them to survive than if it is cold and wet.”

The DNR has already seen an increase in the purchase of fishing and turkey licenses as people are looking to get outdoors after being cooped up by the coronavirus pandemic. Bogenschutz hopes the movement continues into the pheasant season this fall.
He says the last couple years have been good bird years with more pheasants than hunters, so there are plenty of opportunities.

Bogenschutz says a study found an average of 50% of the pheasant chicks that hatch survive and grow into mature birds. They will know for sure if that is the case when they conduct their annual roadside pheasant counts in August.