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20
PIERRE, S.D. – Survey information captured by the S.D. Game, Fish and Parks Department estimates that 179,000 people hunted upland game birds in South Dakota in 2006.



“The vast majority of these people were pheasant hunters,” Corey Huxoll, harvest survey coordinator for GFP said. “We estimate we had 80,000 resident pheasant hunters and 98,000 nonresident pheasant hunters.”



Huxoll said that the total pheasant harvest for 2006 was just under 1.85 million roosters compared to 1.95 million harvested in 2005. Nearly 300,000 pheasants were harvested the opening weekend of the 2006 season. The early resident only pheasant season, the weekend before the traditional pheasant season opener, had just under 25,000 hunters harvest 50,000 pheasants.



The pheasant population and the pheasant harvest for 2005 and 2006 remain the two highest seasons in the past 40 years, according to Tom Kirschenmann, GFP upland game biologist.



“You need to go back to the early ’60s and the end of the Soil Bank era for higher totals,” Kirschenmann said. “Habitat and favorable weather conditions are obviously the keys to our current population level. Conservation Reserve Program acres have played an instrumental role in pushing our state’s pheasant population to where it is today. Similar to the set aside acres of the Soil Bank Program, CRP acres are critical sites for nesting and brood-rearing. Coupled with habitat, the past few years have also experienced open winters and favorable weather conditions during the peak hatch, providing an ideal environment for pheasants to be successful.”



Other upland game species have benefited from CRP, sharp-tailed grouse and prairie chickens in particular. “The central and northeast parts of the state are reporting some of the highest grouse numbers in the past 15 to 20 years,” Kirschenmann said. “It’s not surprising that a large portion of those reports come from areas where CRP has provided additional undisturbed nesting habitat needed by many of our upland game species.”



Hunter surveys also indicate that other upland game bird seasons did well in 2006.

§ The grouse season had 8,000 residents and 6,000 nonresidents hunt, with a harvest of 41,000 grouse.

§ There were 2,600 resident partridge hunters and 2,000 nonresidents with a harvest of 9,000 birds.

§ There were about 600 resident quail hunters and 1,200 nonresidents with a harvest of 1,800 quail.



Without the assistance of hunters reporting their activity through harvest surveys, the department would not be able to track this valuable information. “For upland game, this survey data is extremely important and useful as it is used to estimate the fall harvest and hunter distribution, as well as determining preseason populations,” Kirschenmann said.



Not all hunters are surveyed. Twelve percent of license holders are randomly selected for the upland game survey portion, which can be completed online or by filling out the survey and mailing it in. It only takes a few minutes to complete the survey and the department encourages every survey recipient to fill it out and submit the information.



Most small game hunting season dates will be similar to those available in 2006. One change will combine the two pheasant units so there is one uniform statewide regular season. Another change concerns the date when the starting time for hunting changes from noon to 10 a.m. Traditionally this was on the Sunday when Daylight Saving Time ends and it has been changed to the fourth Saturday in October, which is Oct. 27 in 2007.



Small game hunting seasons in 2007 will be:

§ Youth pheasant: Oct. 6-8.

§ Resident only pheasant: Oct. 13-15.

§ Traditional pheasant: Oct. 20 – Jan. 6.

§ Grouse: Sept. 15 – Jan. 6.

§ Gray partridge: Sept. 15 – Jan. 6.

§ Quail: Oct. 20 – Jan. 6.

§ Cottontail rabbit: Sept. 1 – Feb. 29.

§ Tree squirrel: Sept. 1 – Feb. 29.

§ Mourning dove: Sept. 1 – Oct. 30.

§ Common snipe: Sept. 1 – Oct. 31.

§ Sandhill crane: Sept. 22 – Nov. 18.

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