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 PIERRE, S.D. – It’s not always easy to make a connection between the dog days of August and South Dakota’s annual pheasant hunting season, but the Game, Fish and Parks Department does that in a very big way with its annual pheasant brood route survey.

GFP staff survey 110 established routes from late July through mid-August to compare the observed number of roosters, hens and pheasant broods. The survey, conducted annually since 1949, is used to develop a comparison of pheasants-per-mile counts within specific areas surveys from previous years.

“We will run each of these routes at least once in the next three weeks when the counting conditions are ideal,” said Travis Runia, GFP’s senior upland game biologist.. “The results from this survey give our biologists excellent historical data as part of our pheasant population monitoring, and more importantly, give hunters a glimpse at what they should expect when they take to the fields this autumn.”

GFP staff drive the designated routes early in the morning. Pheasants gather along roadsides at that time to feed, gather grit to help digest food, and dry the morning dew from their feathers.

Runia said the brood route survey would be completed around Aug. 15, and it will take about two weeks after that to analyze data and present a report on the survey results. GFP will provide a pre-season, pheasants-per-mile index for each area and an overall average for the combined surveys at the end of August.

“This survey has proven to be a very good indicator of trends in pheasant numbers,” Runia said. “We are able to get a sense for what our pheasant numbers are doing based on route comparisons from last year and over a 10-year average.”

The 2009 brood route survey indicated that the South Dakota pheasant population had declined 26 percent from the 2008 observation. However, 2007 and 2008 produced two of the highest pheasant counts in more than 40 years. The 2009 survey was 13 percent higher than the 10-year average and was the fourth highest count per mile in the past 45 years.

GFP will post survey information online at when available (approximately Sept. 1).

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