Expections higher: After a tough start, pheasant numbers are starting to look upThe numbers might be down, but as the pheasant season has progressed, the numbers have looked better.
By: Royal McGregor, The Dickinson Press
The numbers might be down, but as the pheasant season has progressed, the numbers have looked better.
The biggest problem hunters had in the early going of the season was the maturity of the pheasants.
“Earlier in the season, you couldn’t tell what was a hen or a rooster,” said Jeff Anderson, president of Dickinson’s chapter of Pheasant Forever. “They all looked the same. Now you can tell. In that respect it’s probably easier.”
Though the concept to distinguish them is easier, Anderson said hunters are still going to try harder than in previous seasons.
“I think for the numbers, they were down, but if you tried, they were there,” Anderson said.
With the numbers looking decent, one of the main things that has helped was the recent snowfall.
“I think it made them find some cover instead of being in the stubble all the time,” Anderson said. “They love the stubble, but if we get a couple inches of snow, then its not their choice.”
The decent numbers were a far cry from what Dickinson resident Owen Johnsen was expecting.
Johnsen, who goes hunting at least three times a week, used to train and raise dogs for pheasant hunting.
“I thought it would be devastatingly low,” Johnsen said. “It’s still not as good as it had been in the past, but with the three hard winters that we’ve had, I’m still finding some more birds than I expected.”
Anderson put it in words that best describe this season, “You are hunting not shooting.”
“You are hunting them this year,” Anderson said. “It’s actually more fun, I think.”
For Anderson, it’s more rewarding at the end of the day.
“I think it’s more of a challenge and more fun,” Anderson said. “It’s more of a prize when you get one.”
Johnsen said the numbers are still higher here than in the rest of state and hunters should be happy about that.
“We are a lot better off than in the eastern part of the state or the northern part of state,” he said. “We have a lot more numbers. Even if the mortality is bad, we have more surviving.”
Anderson said his favorite time to hunt pheasants is around Christmas. Not just because friends and family come back to town, but pheasants jump like geese.
“I’ve always thought it a lot more fun to hunt around Christmas,” Anderson said. “It’s fun to go out there, because when you do see birds, you can jump a group and there will be hundreds of them. They lift like geese. It’s really fun to see.”
Despite the reward and fun of this season, next season is going to be whole different ball game. The conservation reserve program is going be taken out of many fields, where pheasants are known to nest.
“It’s going to make it more difficult,” Johnsen said. “The access for bird hunting is going to be more restricted, because there’s less CRP. The CRP that is there is going to get hunted heavily and as a result, it’s going to contain fewer birds.”