The 2009 Minnesota pheasant hunting opener got off to an uncharacteristic start. Never before can I remember dealing with blustery winds, a dusting of snow, combined with a wind chill factor that teased more of a November deer hunt rather than early October pheasants.
My game plan for the day was simple. I planned to hit a few grassy ravines on my farm first and then head out for some road hunting — not for pheasants, necessarily. Rather, I was just doing what any good Field Reporter should do. I was out looking for other pheasant hunters so I could interview them and report on their day spent afield so far.
After logging nearly 50 miles on my truck traversing the back roads south of Northfield toward Kenyon, I made a very keen observation. The pheasant hunters appeared to be in hiding almost as much as the pheasants. That’s right…for 2 1/2 hours of driving I witnessed a grand total of zero pheasants and zero pheasant hunters, as well. At one point I fumbled for the hunting synopsis just to see if I had the correct day. Yup, page 42 confirmed it…October 10th was the beginning of pheasant hunting here in Minnesota, but from my accounting it seemed almost as though somebody forgot to tell the pheasant hunters.
I guess what was most surprising is the fact I didn’t witness a single other pheasant hunter out and about. On most opening days you’re bound to see some hunters anxious to get the dogs out, but not yesterday. Indeed, in my little section of Minnesota the 2009 pheasant opener didn’t experience much fanfare…but that’s okay.
Unless you’re a hard-core upland bird hunter, I sense the opening day of pheasant hunting here in Minnesota doesn’t take on the same degree of importance as other “opening days.” First, the pheasant season is long and most hunters recognize that better hunting is likely still yet to come.
A big factor influencing pheasant hunting involves what is happening in the agricultural zone. This year, at least in my area between the Twin Cities and Rochester, farmers have had some slow going getting into the fields. An extended period of moisture recently has slowed the soybean harvest. In fact, I’d estimate that currently only about 30 percent of the soybeans have been combined with probably less than 2 percent of the corn. Until we get some decent drying days so farmers can get back into the fields, it might be slow going for the next several days.
During yesterday’s travels I did take note of a thriving turkey population. I witnessed no less than four flocks (between 15–20 birds each) all on woodline edges eating in unpicked soybean fields. I also observed several instances where wood ducks are still holding on many of the small river systems of southeast Minnesota.
In closing, I’m sure the cold weather and poor prospects for decent pheasant hunting kept many hunters out of the sloughs during the opener in my region. Furthermore, because we have fewer birds this year compared to previous years it only makes sense that hunters are waiting for more crops to be removed to concentrate the pheasants. Fortunately, those days are soon coming and then pheasant hunting activity will surely improve.
© 2009 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.