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Standing corn impedes first-day hunting success

Associated Press

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Many hunters reported having a hard time finding pheasants on the opening day of the hunting season because so much corn is still unharvested.

"There's a lot of standing corn and the corn is so thick the birds are tough to get at," said John Forney, an information specialist with the Department of Game, Fish and Parks.

"I think we can say better hunting is to come once we get the crops out of the field."

Opening-day weather Saturday was generally good - cool with light breezes - and a big contrast from the 2003 opening day when record highs in the 70s and mid 80s slowed hunters and dogs.

Many conservation officers reported seeing fewer hunters than last year, Forney said. Last year, 78,654 residents and 85,372 nonresidents hunted pheasants.

The GF&P hasn't put an estimate on this year's pheasant population, although a summer brood count was down 9 percent from last year because of cool, wet weather that reduced nesting and hatching success in June.

Last year's estimated pheasant population of 8.7 million was the state's largest in 40 years.

In the far southeast part of the state and in the northeast, hunters averaged less than one bird, but the success improved as hunters moved farther west, Forney said.

"A checkpoint west of Mitchell stopped 11 vehicles with 22 hunters and they had 60 birds," he said.

"In the northeast, hunters that have larger parties with dogs that can get in the corn and get the birds up are doing better."

No first-day hunting accidents were reported. There were a few violations reported, including using lead shot on public land, a few cases of unlicensed hunters, and one open-container violation and overbag violation at the Mitchell checkpoint, Forney said.

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