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Pheasant numbers in southwestern Minnesota saw significant, triple-digit increases in the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ annual roadside pheasant survey. Other regions of Minnesota saw declines in pheasant numbers, possibly because of more severe winter weather, and more severe drought during breeding season.

The pheasant index increased 101% in the southwest region and 38% in the west central region. Other areas saw decreases in pheasant numbers, with numbers dropping 39% in the central, 63% in the east central, 11% in the south central and 50% in the southeast regions.

Weather and habitat are the main influences on Minnesota’s pheasant population trends. Weather causes annual fluctuations in pheasant numbers, while habitat drives long-term population trends. Shifts this year are due to weather conditions, with pheasant populations benefiting from favorable weather conditions in the southwest and west central areas. Long term, there is nothing to suggest that some areas’ increase in pheasant numbers will continue as a trend, given that there is not a corresponding increase in habitat.

The Minnesota pheasant hunting season opens 9 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 14.