UNDATED -- When hunters head out into the fields Saturday for the start of Minnesota's pheasant hunting season they should find more birds than last year.

Kurt Haroldson conducted the pheasant survey for the DNR this summer. He says pheasants are rebounding nicely with the populations up about 68% from last year.

But, Haroldson says we are still quite a bit below the 10 year average for pheasant populations, because two harsh winters followed by a cool, wet spring led to young pheasants dying and poor spring reproduction.

Last winter's mild conditions and early spring allowed more birds to survive and rebound with a strong reproduction season.  But, Haroldson says it will take some time to catch up to the 10-year average.

Hunters should also benefit from the fall crop harvest being ahead of schedule.  He says with more corn fields harvested, it leaves fewer places for the birds to hide.

Haroldson says the best pheasant populations appear to be in southwestern and west-central Minnesota.