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 PIERRE, S.D. – Sportsmen will adorn the fields for the great South Dakota pheasant opener this weekend with pleasant conditions expected.

With bird counts above the 10-year average, a favorable weather forecast and farmers harvesting crops in many areas, conditions are ripe for a successful weekend.

“It’s a good time to be a pheasant hunter,” said South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Secretary Jeff Vonk. “We have good pheasant numbers despite a wet spring and the loss of thousands of acres of CRP. South Dakota is a prime pheasant hunting destination, and GFP staff and private landowners work hard to keep it that way.”

GFP has partnered with USDA to provide a new program, the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). CREP will allow public hunting access this fall on over 20,000 acres of private land in the James River Watershed.

CREP provides private landowners with competitive rental rates in exchange for public access and 10- to 15-year leases. GFP also provides cost share to CREP participants to convert cropland to grassland and restore wetlands.

Some CREP lands can be found in the 2010 Public Lands Atlas, but this new program is constantly adding acres. Hunters are encouraged to go online at and click on “Hunting Atlas Updates” for up-to-date maps with all enrolled CREP lands. Information on the web page is updated weekly to provide the most current information about newly enrolled CREP lands. GFP is posting CREP signs on those areas as fast as possible, but the areas will be listed on its website before the signs are in place.

Despite the excitement of opening day, hunters are reminded to be safe.

“First and foremost, hunters should always use the blue-sky rule,” said Vonk. “Never shoot at a bird unless you can see plenty of horizon underneath it. Also, if you are hunting in a group, walk in a straight line and be aware of other hunters, especially blockers.”

Hunters should always be aware of gun-safety rules and never shoot at birds on the ground when hunting with dogs. Many hunting accidents in South Dakota occur when hunters shoot at low-flying birds. Shotgun pellets carry much farther than people may think.

“Getting out, hunting with family and friends and enjoying the outdoors is really what this weekend is all about,” said Vonk. “It’s a great tradition and a great time for making memories and seeing old friends.”

Pheasant season starts at noon on Saturday. The daily limit is 3 rooster pheasants, with a 15-bird possession limit. Hunters transporting birds are reminded that the birds must have a wing, foot, or head attached until hunters get home.

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