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Over the last few years farmers have been taking fields out of the CRP to put back into production because of the rise in prices for certain crops. From this, the US is now suffering one of the longest corn slumps for 30 years and this has led to a great year for the pheasant population of South Dakota.

The low price for the most farmed crop in South Dakota has encouraged farmers to leave fields and land fallow. This in turn has created more natural habitat for the popular game bird that is essential for the $220 million a year hunting sport industry in the state. And this helps to explain why the official symbol of the state has made such a good recovery over the last couple of years. The state’s Game, Fish and Parks department has even forecasted that this year will see the largest wild flock since 2010.

Licenses have also been sold at a faster rate this year. While there was still a month to go before the season closes, the number of hunting licenses sold has exceeded last year’s total count.

“We've been busy selling gear, lots of ammo, guns,” A.J. Hoffman, the owner of SoDak Sports, recently stated. The sale of hunter orange gear this season has put the store in the black. “People buy guns for their kids, their grandkids.”

It is still early for a total flock tally, but a state survey in August recorded that there are 42% more pheasants per mile than there were the previous year. Last year’s mild winter helped, but that alone wouldn’t account for the significant increase in the pheasant population, habitat is the major contributor.

Corn stalks are a poor habitat for wild pheasants and with the rise in monocultures, there is little crop diversity on farms, reducing habitat in fields that are placed in production.

However, it is no wonder that farmers aren’t placing fields into production when corn prices have decreased for the third consecutive year and are now at half their price during the 2012 peak. The last time that a slump like this had happened, it was 1986.

According to statistics, South Dakota is the nation’s sixth largest producer of corn. This is despite the 11% decrease in productivity from last year. Even soybeans that have enjoyed a high price have seen some cuts with a decrease in production of 1%.

Have you enjoyed a good pheasant harvest this year? Are you a farmer leaving fields to fallow?

Let us know in the comments below.


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