For pheasants and pheasant hunters, there were no silver linings to be found in the storm clouds that inundated the countryside with heavy rains this week.
A foot of rain falling in just a week is never good, but for pheasants, it came at precisely the worst time.
Kurt Haroldson, assistant regional wildlife manager at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources office in New Ulm, said the median hatch date for pheasants typically occurs the first week in June.
“It’s a bell-shaped curve with chicks being hatched on both sides of the peak,” he said.
Already so late into the nesting season, many hens probably had hatched broods that would be impacted by extremely heavy rain.
“It’s not looking good,” he said. “Hens will re-nest if their nests are destroyed before their eggs hatch, but once the the chicks have hatched, they won’t.”
With areas of Minnesota’s best pheasant range receiving a foot or more of rain over the last several days, a reasonable assumption is that some chicks have drowned.
But Haroldson said that chick survival also is based on available food sources and temperatures.
“Warm, dry springs are ideal,” he said, adding such conditions result in plentiful bug populations, a key component to pheasant chick survival.
“Cool, wet weather isn’t good for the bugs that pheasant chicks feed on,” he said.
Since pheasant chicks are not able to regulate body temperatures very well, the combination of wet weather and cool temperatures also can adversely impact their survival.
Haroldson said that the only good thing about recent weather events is they have been accompanied by warm temperatures.
Bill Schuna, DNR wildlife manager for Nobles, Rock, Murray and Pipestone counties in extreme southwest Minnesota which traditionally has been prime pheasant range, said the rain couldn’t have come at a worse time.