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Posted on Tue, Sep. 07, 2004

Survey looks at pheasant hunting


Associated Press

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Residents spent an average of just over 8 1/2 days hunting pheasants last year, brought home 14 birds and did most of their hunting on no-fee private land.

Nonresidents were more inclined to pay to hunt and killed fewer birds on average, yet they expressed more satisfaction with the hunt than did South Dakotans, according to a survey by the state Department of Game, Fish and Parks.

The department's Larry Gigliotti mailed a 10-page survey booklet to 3,000 South Dakotans who hunted last year and a four-page survey to 1,600 nonresident hunters.

The response rate - 71.8 percent for residents and 80.7 percent for nonresidents - is about average for GF&P small-game surveys, although a bit low for residents, Gigliotti said.

Included in the resident survey were questions about their hunting patterns in the past five years. Figures from the 2002 season showing more nonresident hunters than resident hunters for the first time raised some concern among GF&P commissioners that South Dakotans were quitting the sport.

Gigliotti's survey found that residents sit out a hunting season for reasons that include a busy schedule, no place to hunt, work obligations, or a lower pheasant population.

When there's a big falloff in resident hunters, as there was from 76,772 in 2001 to 70,821 in 2002, it's generally because the bird population is down, he said.

Nonresident hunters again outnumbered residents last year, but the number of South Dakota hunters increased by 8,000 from 2002.

"The first year that happened it was alarming because it looked like it was the result of a bunch of residents quitting," Gigliotti said. "Largely what tripped it was the low pheasant population numbers. Resident hunters came back to average participation in 2003 because pheasant numbers were back."

Last year's pheasant population was the largest in 20 years and drew 78,394 resident hunters and 83,544 nonresidents.

Responses from South Dakota hunters indicated some concern about future competition from nonresidents in finding places to hunt that are affordable, Gigliotti said.

"They see that nonresidents can outbid them for their willingness to pay," he said. "It doesn't seem to be showing up too much currently in their ability to hunt and in enjoyment, but they see a squeeze coming in the future."

Just over a quarter of the South Dakotans who responded to the survey said they hunt in the three-day, resident-only season on public land that precedes the regular season.

"A fair amount would like to see that extended, either by making it longer or by including private land," Gigliotti said.

About two-thirds of resident hunters last year concentrated on no-fee private land. Road hunting drew 12.7 percent, public land 9.8 percent, walk-in areas 5.6 percent, fee hunting on private land 3.6 percent, and shooting preserves 1.5 percent, according to the survey.

Among nonresidents, 43 percent went to no-fee private land and 36.3 percent paid to hunt on private land. Public land drew 7.1 percent, road ditches 6.3 percent, walk-in areas 5.5 percent, and shooting preserves 2 percent.

Among the survey's other findings:

_ Most nonresident hunting takes place in the first 10 days of the season. Half of the resident hunters said they're still out in December.

_ Sixty-six percent of South Dakotans said they were "very satisfied" or "moderately satisfied" with the 2003 season. Among nonresidents, the percentage was 84 percent.

_ Forty-three percent in both groups said the top reason to go hunting is the social interaction. Less than 3 percent of residents and less than 1 percent of nonresidents listed food for the table as the motivation.


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