Minnesota pheasant season opens Saturday with numbers down

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Minnesota opens its pheasant season Saturday with far fewer birds in the field than last year as a long-term decline in the state's ringneck population continues due to the loss of habitat in farm country.

The Department of Natural Resources estimates Minnesota's pheasant population is down 26 percent from last year. The DNR says the key reason is a big drop in acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, which takes environmentally sensitive farmland out of production and turns it back to grassland.

Pheasants Forever says areas around Brown County, and portions of Lincoln and Yellow Medicine counties, have the most pheasants, but hunters can find birds elsewhere if they work at it.

Marshall is hosting the official Governor's Pheasant Hunting Opener. Festivities open Friday.

The season ends Jan. 1.