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Pheasant numbers down a bit

Associated Press

HURON, S.D. - Pheasant season is coming, and the annual brood survey indicates pheasant numbers are down a bit from last year's bumper crop of birds.

The statewide survey earlier this month indicates about 5.6 pheasants per mile. Last year's count showed 6.2 birds per mile, about a 9 percentage point drop.

But officials say it still is about equal to 8 million pheasants.

The brood survey indicates pheasants fared well despite drought, a cool and wet nesting period and some strong summer storms in various parts of the state.

The dip was almost a certainty after last year's big numbers, said Tony Leif, a senior biologist with the state Game, Fish and Parks Department.

"You have to remember that last year was an exceptional year for birds. This year may be a little off of that, but not much," he said.

"The 2003 counts were the highest since 1963, and to only see a 9 percent drop holds great promise for the 2004 hunting season," said Ron Fowler, GF&P game management program administrator.

The counts were done the first two weeks of August. Pheasant numbers in 11 of the 14 survey areas were down, compared to last year. The Mobridge and Pierre areas, along with western South Dakota, had increases.

None of those spots had a birds-per-mile count above 6.03.

"With the trend we saw in the decline in average brood size, that was really consistent across the state," Lief said. "It was consistently down about 15 percent throughout the pheasant range of the state here."

Fowler said the habitat produced through the Conservation Reserve Program is key to the continued health of the state's pheasant population.

"The benefits of the 1.4 million acres of prime wildlife habitat in our state from CRP continue to pay huge dividends for wildlife populations," Fowler said. "This is especially true with nesting habitat for pheasants."

The brood survey was done along 110 30-mile survey routes.

Some local areas may see drops in numbers because of weather patterns, including some heavy rains in late May and June, Fowler said.

Checking favorite hunting spots in person is the most accurate way for hunters to gauge local pheasant numbers, the GF&P said.

The regular pheasant season starts Oct. 16 and ends January 5.

On the Net:

Department of Game, Fish and Parks:


Information from: Huron Plainsman,

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