Department of Natural Resources officials announced Tuesday that a mild winter and a warm spring have contributed to an increase in Minnesota’s pheasant count. The pheasant population index in the state is reportedly up about 68% from this time last year, and pheasant hunters are expected to harvest around 290,000 birds this season. That’s up from last year’s harvest of about 204,000 birds, but still only about half the number from the 2005-2008 seasons. The pheasant population estimate is part of the DNR’s annual roadside wildlife survey. Officials say the best pheasant counts were in west-central Minnesota, where an average of 58 pheasants per 100 miles driven were reported.