Now that the carnage of what was considered a pretty severe winter for wildlife has mostly melted away, wildlife officials in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota recently offered a glimpse of how well pheasants fared.
While winter started early and provided some of the coldest temperatures all three states have encountered in several years, pheasants appear to have done surprisingly well.
The bigger issues for continuing to build bird numbers will be nesting success this spring, which was poor last year, and slowing down the loss of suitable habitat.
It was an extremely cold winter across the state with many areas experiencing in excess of 50 days with air temperatures at or below zero degrees.
Some areas also received record snowfall this past winter. Fortunately, the deepest snows fell outside the state's core pheasant area.
According to Nicole Davros, upland game project leader with the Department of Natural Resources, the heart of Minnesota's pheasant range — which includes the west-central, south-central and the southeast parts of the state — some of the smaller pieces of cover were filled with snow. But the bigger chunks of cattails and grassland were mostly blown open by strong winds.
"Birds took advantage of food plots and the wind also blew open farm fields for feeding," she said. "I haven't had any major reports of mortality from the winter conditions."
Most encouraging, Davros is seeing a fair number of birds along roadsides in the southern part of the state.
She's confident pheasants fared well this winter and will know for sure when the DNR conducts its annual roadside counts in August.