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2011 South Dakota Pheasant Hunting Season Outlook Forecast Report-Fall

September 20, 2011 by

SD GFP Road Counts are out...Down, Down, Down....Now what?

It's been 2 months since our last report in July.  Much has transpired since then.  I had to finish mowing my new CRP blocks the first week in August and without a doubt that week I saw the most birds on the roads and in the CRP cover all summer.  Even as a landowner out working habitat on your farm it remains difficult to assess real bird numbers due to all the cover available for young broods to escape into.

So I am sure most of you have read that the statewide South Dakota Game Fish and Parks roadside brood count survey has shown a decline in bird numbers across all areas and a 46% decrease statewide.  I have had many conversations with farmers and landowners across the state that would both support and refute these numbers.  I thought you would find it helpful and maybe encouraging for me to list and quote these conversations here: (I should note that most all these quotes have come after the survey)

"Anyone that has habitat will have birds"  Ben Bigalke, former head biologist for Pheasants Forever now working at SD GFP in their Private Lands Programs

"I've never seen more pheasant in one CRP field"  Nick, Charles Mix County Soil District after doing some mowing maintenance on a new CRP field.

"Seeing a lot of little pheasants"  Doug, neighbor in Charles Mix County after doing some haying in August"

"We're not seeing any pheasants"  Farmer in Hand County near Miller

"Seeing pheasants and lots of little ones late"  Farmer in Edmunds County

"Birds are down 70-90% in Spink, Beadle and Hand Counties"  Road Count survey Lead for SD GFP

"Chris,  I figured out part of the pheasant decrease after having been out in my 2011 planted CRP.  I was mowing weed patches that we will plant to water tolerant grasses.  In the process, I noticed small pheasants that Game Fish and Parks would not have been able to count during their normal routes.  Given the size of pheasants, I think pheasants nested in the CRP that was just planted this year.  I do not doubt pheasant numbers are down.  However, the late hatches will be far more than normal.  When season starts, roosters will be getting up that will not show color until November 1.  I talked with former Game Fish and Parks Secretary John Cooper and he alerted me to this theory.  After being out in the CRP, I saw firsthand what he was talking about."  Landowner near Faulkton

"I see about 300 pheasants out on my road in the morning"  A UGUIDE Pheasant Camp Owner

"I am seeing lots of little ones"  A UGUIDE Pheasant Camp Owner

Bottom line is I am telling hunters that are thinking about late season hunts to wait and see what our opening week groups do for success rates and see where the bird numbers look stronger.

As far as crops go we couldn't have hoped for a better summer in regards to crop development and maturation.  As of the Sept 18 USDA report crops have caught up to the 5 year average on most phases and are just a little behind on the maturing phase.  Some areas will be worse than others as far as crops that got planted late will come out late.  I have two farms 6 miles apart and one is 3 weeks behind the other due to heavy May/June rains.

Check Availability of Remaining Late SeasonUGUIDE UnGuided South Dakota Pheasant Hunts Here