Pheasant numbers sag from count in past years

PHOTOS BY MIKE CARROLL/PLAINSMAN FILE Despite heavy snowfall last winter and a wetter than average spring and summer, pheasant numbers have remained consistent in the state this year.

PIERRE — The second century of pheasant hunting in South Dakota will begin in October, kicking off another year of the state’s robust hunting heritage.
So says Kelly Hepler, Department Secretary for South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks.
The annual pheasant brood count conducted by South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) indicated that, despite a tough winter and wet spring, birds are still plentiful, although there were fewer birds counted than in recent years.
“South Dakota still offers the greatest opportunity in the country for pheasant hunting,” said Hepler.
“Pheasant reproduction in 2019 is right in there with other years and lands open to public hunting are abundant, which means our second century of pheasant hunting will be off to a good start.”
The GF&P reports says that in a statewide snapshot, numbers were on par with the previous two years. Looking more closely at the numbers, however, show that the Pheasants Per Mile (PPM) indexfor the 2019 pheasant brood survey decreased 17% (2.47 to 2.04, 90% confidence interval)compared to 2018.  This year’s index is 43% lower than the 10-year average (2019 = 2.04, 10-year average = 3.58).  
Fewer hens and broods were counted throughout the 110 survey routes compared to last year while the number of roosters remained nearly unchanged. Statewide, 40 of the 110 survey routes had a higher PPM than in 2018.
The number of roosters increased 2 percent from last year,  while hens decreased 21 percent. Total broods counted decreased by the same 21 percent. Statewide, brood size is slightly larger than the 10-year average, 6.4 chicks to 5.9.
 It is also highly likely, the report states, that flooded ditches and approximately 3.8 million acres of unplanted crop fields reduced the number of pheasants using roadside habitat. These factors likely contributed to variability in the 2019 index because survey conditions were noticeably different compared to 2018.
View the full report at gfp.sd.gov/pheasant.
“Enhancing habitat in South Dakota touches every aspect of life in our state,” Governor Kristi Noem said.
“We must be responsible in protecting these resources, creating healthy habitats, and supporting growth and health in our natural populations. My Second Century Initiative is about families, introducing kids to the adventure of the outdoors, and conserving our outdoor culture for the next generation. Enhancing habitat is a crucial step in strengthening the next 100 years of our outdoor traditions.”
Hepler agrees that good habitat is beneficial for every species in our state.
“We are committed to the Second Century Initiative,” said Hepler. “By working with Governor Noem, landowners and other conservation partners, we will improve existing habitat and create new habitat opportunities. These efforts will undoubtedly help provide a successful second century of pheasant hunting to the next generation. South Dakota is the best place to hunt pheasants and will be for a long time.”
South Dakota’s 2019 traditional pheasant season runs Oct. 19 through Jan. 5, with a youth season from Oct. 5-9. A resident-only season runs Oct. 12-14.

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