Despite the mild weather and a dry summer, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says that their August count shows a 26 percent decline in the Pheasant population from last year and a 32 percent drop below the 10-year average and 62 percent below the long-term average.

The DNR says a loss of habitat in the farm country is to blame. There has been a steady loss of undisturbed nesting since the 2000s. Part of the reason for that is a decrease of 687,000 fewer acres are enrolled in the federal Conservation Reserve Program, which pays farmers to take environmentally sensitive land out of production.

The Pheasant season opens this year on October 14.

Photo provided by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources