Because of weather conditions, the Minnesota DNR expects the numbers of pheasants to be high this year in southern Minnesota. (Image courtesy Minnesota DNR)

Pheasant numbers are booming compared to last year and hunters can expect to see more birds when the season opens on Saturday, Oct. 10.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ annual roadside pheasant survey showed a 42 percent increase in the state pheasant index from 2019 and a 37 percent increase over the 10-year average, including an eyebrow-raising 146 percent increase over last year in southwestern Minnesota.

“The weather this spring and summer was favorable for pheasants and enabled more hens to raise chicks, which drove the increase,” said Tim Lyons, DNR upland game research scientist. “We didn’t get hit by spring snow storms or heavy rainfalls like in 2019 and that really is what let hens nest earlier and be successful.”

Though the spring was cooler than average, rainfall was at or below average across much of the state. 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.

This year’s statewide pheasant index was 53.5 birds per 100 miles of roads driven. All regions of the pheasant range reported an increase in pheasant counts, with the southwest reporting the greatest increase—there, observers counted 90.5 birds per 100 miles, a 146 percent increase compared to 2019.

Hunters can expect great opportunities to see birds in the southwest and very good hunting prospects in the west-central, central, and south-central regions, which all reported more than 50 birds per 100 miles.