Great... More bad news for Minnesota pheasant hunters: The state's pheasant population is down 29 percent from last year, due to a long winter and cold, wet spring and loss of habitat. Just last week, South Dakota reported a 64 percent decline in its ringneck population. Minnesota’s 2013 pheasant index is 64 percent below the 10-year average and 72 percent below the long-term average. The Department of Natural Resources predicts pheasant hunters will harvest about 246,000 roosters this fall – which would be down 18,000 from last year's estimated harvest of 264,000. It's also less than half the number of pheasants taken during the 2005-2008 seasons when hunting was exceptionally good. Officials said the recent loss of habitat is hurting the pheasant population Enrollment in the federal Conservation Reserve Program declined by 63,700 acres in Minnesota’s pheasant range over the last year and contracts for nearly 400,000 acres of statewide CRP lands are scheduled to expire during the next 3 years. If not re-enrolled, this would reduce CRP acres in Minnesota by 30 percent. High land rental rates and competing uses for farmland diminish the economic attractiveness of farmland conservation programs. Meanwhile, the DNR said the highest pheasant counts were in the southwest region, where observers reported 51 birds per 100 miles of survey driven. Hunters should find good harvest opportunities in west-central, east-central and south-central Minnesota.