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Fergus Falls, Minnesota Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Kotts hopeful about pheasants

By Brian Hansel
Pheasant numbers in west central Minnesota were on a definite rebound this spring. Many hens had already started laying their eggs when Mother Nature released the flood gates in early May.

So where does that place pheasant numbers for the coming fall season?

Glenwood DNR wildlife manager Kevin Kotts is still optimistic. Kotts drives from Morris to Glenwood each working day through the heart of west central Minnesota. He has been seeing birds and broods.

"I'm still hopeful but it would be nice to get some warm weather," said Kotts.

Reports have been reaching Kotts around brood sightings but the DNR manager is waiting until the official roadside count in August before he makes any serious judgments.

"We certainly had a bunch of birds going into the spring," said Kotts, who had some people telling him that they were looking for pheasant numbers as good as the days of the Soil Bank program.

Kotts expects the August roadside count to answer most of his questions. DNR managers generally look for days with heavy dew which forces birds out of their grassy cover. Unlike northern Minnesota wildlife managers who have to count grouse based on the number of "drums" they hear, Kotts goes by what he sees over a route that has been covered for decades.

The 2003 pheasant hunting season in Minnesota was a nice surprise with 358,000 roosters harvested, although the DNR knew bird numbers were up thanks to another mild winter.

Following the 2003 season, Kotts went flying over some known pheasant wintering areas and counted over 100 birds in a single spot.

Pheasants are amazingly resilient game birds given half a chance. They will renest 2-3 times a summer if their nest is destroyed. August is usually at the tail end of this effort but September broods are not unheard of in Minnesota.

The DNR is presently carrying out a study in Pope County aimed at providing wildlife managers with accurate date regarding winter cover and it's relationship to pheasant counts in a certain area. Kotts believes when the five-year study is completed, using GIS technology, the blueprint it provides will take a lot of the guesswork out of how much cover is needed to promote good pheasant numbers.

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