Pheasant Hunters Optimistic
South Dakota pheasant hunters will take to the fields on Saturday for the annual season opener with about 47 percent more optimism than a year ago.
Hunters received good news in August when the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks (GFP) announced the results of this year’s brood survey. The 2018 statewide pheasantsper mile index is 2.47, up 47 percent from the 1.68 number of a year ago.
The came on the heels of the report a year ago that showed a 45 percent decrease statewide, largely due to a devastating drought that took its toll on the pheasant population.
Marshall County Conservation Officer Casey Dowler is confident that hunters will find their share of ringnecks in the county.
“People are a little nervous that there will not be enough birds around to hunt,” said Dowler, “but based on what I’ve been seeing we have plenty of birds around. There are birds out there to be found. Hunters just need to get out and walk around a little bit and I think they will see and harvest a few birds.”
Dowler said that Marshall County numbers on the brood survey routes were up this year. The county is represented in both the Aberdeen and Sisseton counts with the Aberdeen count of 1.35 birds up 32 percent, and the Sisseton count of 1.23 up a whopping 210 percent.
“We were up quite a bit, especially in the western portion of the county where most of the birds were observed. It should be a good pheasant season.”
The state’s resident only season was held Saturday through Monday, but Dowler said pressure was light. Snow and cold conditions, coupled with the fact that most of the crops are still in the field, likely kept some hunters home.
“The residents’ season was pretty slow around the area and I didn’t see a ton of hunters out,” noted Dowler. “And having crops in the ground makes it a little tougher. But with the weather making a turn for the good it should help a lot of farmers get the crops out of the field.”
South Dakota’s pheasant season runs through Sunday, Jan. 6. Shooting hours are noon to sunset the first seven days of the season and after that hunters may start their day at 10 a.m. The daily bag limit is three roosters with a possession limit of 15.
GFP Secretary Kelly Hepler is excited about the state’s 100th pheasant season.
“A substantial increase in the pheasants-per-mile index is an exciting prospect for South Dakota’s 100th pheasant hunting season. “Weather conditions continue to play a significant role when it comes to bird numbers and better weather helped this year with the average pheasant brood size increasing 22 percent over last year.”
Hepler also pointed to better prospects in the eastern part of the state.
“We are pleased to see pheasant numbers improve across the state, particularly in the fast eastern part where hunters will have more opportunities to harvest birds than in recent years.”
The Chamberlain area once again sported the highest pheasant survey count with 5.29 birds per mile, up 31 percent from a year ago but still down 50 percent from the 10-year average. The Mitchell area ranked second at 2.69 birds per mile, and the Pierre area was next at 3.72.