Heavy rain may not affect pheasant reproduction this season
WORTHINGTON -- Summer continues to race by, with the first of August just around the corner. Summer was kind of disappointing this year because of the fact that we didn't really have any in June. All it did was rain for the last part of May and m...
WORTHINGTON -- Summer continues to race by, with the first of August just around the corner.
Summer was kind of disappointing this year because of the fact that we didn't really have any in June. All it did was rain for the last part of May and much of June. Summer, by most descriptions is June, July and August. And with most of June absentee balloting, this summer seems even shorter than usual.
As summer starts to wind down, the talk turns to the subject of how well the pheasants did with their reproduction efforts, which relates directly to the success that will be had by hunters this fall.
Minnesota harvested more pheasants last year than in any year since 1964. Last year resulted in hunters taking 655,000 birds. What a change from the times I remember when, if you saw even two roosters in a day, it was quite a feat. I am talking about just seeing two, not shooting two.
Wind the clock ahead 15 years, and now a limit of pheasants is almost an every-outing occurrence. Mild winters and better grassland habitat are the reasons behind this night-and-day difference.
The other variable that has to cooperate in order to have good reproduction is the weather during the first 10 days in June. This is when the majority of the pheasant eggs hatch and when the new chicks are most vulnerable. Heavy rains during this period can really take a toll on young birds, especially if the temperatures drop to the low 40s as well.
So the big question is: Just how do you think that the peasants did this hatching season?
The question is normally answered when the August roadside counts are released at the end of that month, but the wondering goes on all summer long.
By my best guess, the hatch was about a 6.5 on a scale of 1 to 10. I arrived at my unscientific guess just by the number of young birds that I saw in my travels in the countryside. Heavy rains in the last part of May and early June not only kill chicks, but can also drown out an un-hatched nest if it becomes covered by water or washed out by water flows.
Rained-out nests should not be a big problem this year because of the fact that it had been raining frequently during the time the hens were choosing a nesting site. If the sites were already wet the hens would have been forced to higher ground. As a result, when the big rains came, their nests were not subject to these drowned-out opportunities. Rains when the chicks were very young may have resulted in higher-than-normal mortality.
Pheasants are one of the most interesting creatures on Earth. They are also one of the most prolific nesters. A hen will try many times to pull off a successful clutch right up until the time that she does.
What I mean is this: If a hen has a nest drowned out, she will lay another clutch of eggs that will be smaller than the first. If a mower or predator destroys that nest, she might well try again, but if the third nest attempted is hatched and all the chicks are killed one day later, she is done for the season. Once the eggs hatch, she will not normally try again that year.
The more times the hen has to try before she hatches a brood, the later in the year those birds start to show up. At the very least, I think that everything in the pheasant-hatching world is at least three weeks later than normal.
Maybe that's why I am not seeing as many birds as I did last year at this time. All that we can do for now is wonder what the upcoming fall will look like.
Many folks continue to think that wildlife management is like math and that two plus two always equals four. This is not the case.
It really doesn't matter how many young birds you see in July or the totals of the roadside counts. What really matters is what happens when you strap on your boots and spend some time walking behind your dog. This is the only true measure of how the season will shake out. Until then, all you can do is ponder the possibilities. I have always said that anticipation is one of the important parts to any quality outdoor outing and that anticipation will just have to continue until October 11. I will then be able to tell you with certainty how the pheasant hatch of '08 went.
The next hunting opportunity will happen on September 1 with the start of the morning dove season. I am sure that this will again be an interesting season.