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2009 South Dakota Pheasant Hunting Season Outlook Forecast Report - Winter

January 22, 2009 by

South Dakota - In recent years, South Dakota has experienced very mild winters which have helped produce record pheasant populations. To date, the 2008-2009 winter has brought an end to this mild spell as constant cold fronts carrying snow, arctic temperatures and strong winds (up to 70 mph in some areas) have passed across the entire state. This bombardment has taken its toll as habitat conditions continue to grow worse. Blowing snow has begun to fill up much of the winter cover provided by farmstead shelterbelts, field windbreaks, cattail sloughs and other CRP grasses. "Pheasant losses this winter have been minimal," said Chad Switzer, Senior Upland Game Biologist for the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks. "But if the current weather patterns persist through the remainder of the winter, conditions may become difficult for pheasants and other residential wildlife." An increase in winter mortality for pheasants is expected this season when compared to previous years, however, early observations from South Dakota's winter sex ratio study indicates there is a higher than expected surplus of roosters remaining from the 2008-2009 hunting season. This is likely the cause of a late corn harvest and inclement weather conditions because both resident and non-resident license sales for 2008-2009 were equivalent to the 2007-2008 season. Reports from all across the state indicated another successful pheasant season for South Dakota - as is predicted for next fall - but future heavy snowfall, the duration of extremely cold temperatures and strong winds will dictate the overall effect of this winter on local pheasants. "Feeding pheasants is strongly discouraged as it increases chances of predation and disease," added Switzer, "Landowners who have an interest in the well-being of pheasants can significantly increase the quality of winter cover by excluding livestock from any woody habitat that provides overhead thermal protection." To join your local South Dakota PF Chapter, go to