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South Dakota Pheasant Hunting

Good News For Pheasant Hunters, South Dakotan Counts Up

Article from the S.D. Game, Fish and Parks Department

PIERRE, S.D.— Pheasant survey routes indicate that hunters who take the fields in 2007 will be greeted by one of the largest pheasant populations in South Dakota history.

Brood count surveys by the S.D. Game, Fish and Parks Department project pheasant numbers the likes of which has not been seen since the Soil Bank years of the 1950s and ’60s. The pheasant population index was at a 40-year high in 2005 and the 2007 index tops that historic mark. Overall statewide numbers for 2007 are 23% higher than the 2006 counts and 18% higher than the 2005 mark.

Having abundant secure nesting habitat for pheasants that CRP provides was an important factor in 2007. That CRP habitat, coupled with favorable weather conditions in June, resulted in the highest pheasant count on record since 1963. Survey results show that the number of broods observed on routes increased by 15 percent and the average number of pheasant chicks in those broods increased by 11 percent. The average brood size in 2007 was 6.71 chicks per brood.

A somewhat sobering fact that detracts from the good news on pheasant numbers is the prospect that South Dakota will be losing some of that all-important habitat.

“At the very time South Dakota is enjoying historic gains in its pheasant population the state is set to lose a good portion of its valuable CRP habitat,” said GFP Wildlife Division Director Doug Hansen.

The brood survey is conducted on 110 30-mile routes in South Dakota where pheasants are found in sufficient numbers to count. The survey results in a pheasant-per-mile index that can be used to forecast an area’s relative population density. In addition to being up over 2006, the 7.85 pheasants per mile average is 67 percent higher than the 10-year average of 4.71.

Locally, the counts indicated that most all areas of the state followed the statewide trend. Local increases were most impressive in those parts of central SD that experienced drought-induced pheasant declines in 2006. Although increases were less dramatic in the rest of the state’s main pheasant range, seven of 12 local area pheasant per mile estimates are the highest ever recorded. All 12 are well above the average of counts for the past 10 years.

One of the few down notes in the survey was a slight decrease in the areas surveyed in extreme western South Dakota. However, that area’s PPM index was close to its 10-year average.

“All signs point toward a terrific pheasant hunting season,” Hansen said. “However, high counts don’t automatically translate into hunter success. The best bet is to scout the area where you’re going to hunt and to visit with landowners because localized conditions can cause pheasant populations to fluctuate.”

The scouting of hunting areas isn’t the only action that needs to be taken. “Anyone interested in South Dakota maintaining its world-class pheasant population needs to get involved in the process of convincing Congress that programs like CRP are vital for the conservation of all kinds of wildlife.”

The 2007 pheasant season starts at noon on Oct. 20 with a statewide youth season Oct. 6-8 and a resident-only season on public lands Oct. 13-16