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Pheasant harvest highest in 40 years; officials say 2006 looks good

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Last year was a good year for Minnesota pheasant hunters according to state wildlife officials.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officials say that favorable weather helped make 2005 one of the best pheasant hunting seasons in 40 years.

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The DNR says hunters harvested 585,000 pheasants last fall - the highest harvest since 1964 - well above the 2004 harvest of 420,000 birds. Individually, hunters also harvested more doves and ducks.

"Landowners and conservationists have put together all the habitat elements for excellent pheasant production and in the last few years it has all come together." said Dave Schad, director of the DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife.

Schad added that the severe winters in the mid-1990's along with the cool, wet springs we've had more recently have limited pheasant production in the last 15 years.

"But in the last several years, the weather has been favorable and grassland habitat is abundant, thanks in large part to the Conservation Reserve Program, Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program and Reinvest in Minnesota," Schad said.

The number of active pheasant hunters increased to 111,000 in 2005 from 104,000 in 2004. Hunters averaged 5.3 birds each for 2005, compared with four birds per hunter in 2004.

Last year marks only the fourth time the pheasant harvest topped 500,000 birds since 1964.

In the immediate future, pheasant hunting should be very good again, Schad said. "Nesting conditions have been very favorable this year and habitat continues to be abundant. We will have more information on this fall's prospects when annual roadside wildlife counts are completed in late August."

The 2006 pheasant hunting season begins Oct. 14.

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