UNDATED -- When Minnesota pheasant hunters hit the fields for the first time this weekend, they may have to search longer and harder for the ringnecked birds.

Rachel Curtis headed-up the pheasant population survey for the DNR this year. She says the pheasant populations in the state are down an estimated 29% from last year.

Curtis says a big part of the reason behind the declining population is the loss of undisturbed grassland habitat.  Another big reason is the cold, wet spring.  Curtis says the weather prevented as many successful nests from hatching as the year before.

The good news for hunters is that the adult populations made it through last winter's heavy snowfall remarkably well.