By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

Unprecedented, that's what three years of top-notch, back-to-back pheasant production means to biologist Randy Rodgers.

But that's not to say he was holding his breath for a time, when it seemed that northwest Kansas couldn't buy a rain during the first few months of the year.

All that changed in April, when rain started falling and cool temperatures helped boost the Kansas wheat crop -- the ideal nesting spot for pheasants.

Rodgers, who tracks the state's pheasant population for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, hasn't seen any pheasant broods just yet, but he's starting to hear reports of the chicks being spotted.

If the top-notch reproduction holds, the state's pheasant season this fall could be remarkable.

Last year was no slouch.

"Last year was pretty darn good in northwest Kansas," Rodgers said. "I would say we had the best pheasant numbers that we've since the early '80s."

Not quite as good as the early '80s, mind you, but the best since then.

"So we had a very good breeding population," he said.

Around the first of April, Rodgers was growing concerned that drought might be back in the area, and that it could hurt the wheat crop.

But the skies opened up, releasing rain. Temperatures remained cool as well, allowing for the state's wheat crop to grow.

Granted, some spots have had too much rain, Rodgers said, such as Thomas, Logan and Gove counties, where 4 to 5 inches of rain fell.

"That's too much for nesting success," he said. "That probably caused some nest abandonment or chick mortality."

But the heavy rains of about three weeks ago came early enough that hens could re-nest and produce another clutch of chicks.

Overall, the spots that had heavy rains won't cause big problems.

That's why Rodgers is optimistic.

"I don't see how we couldn't help but have good production given the spring we've had," he said.

And with wheat harvest starting perhaps a little later than normal, that just gives pheasants a little extra time to face the harsh world of combines as farmers start cutting.

Right now, he said, Kansas is looking at a third year of top production.

"I don't know if I'm bubbling over," Rodgers said, "but I feel pretty good."