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On the Eve of the South Dakota Brood Count Survey Report

August 25, 2014 by

Seems like the quiet of the back to school season and the anticipation of the much awaited South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Brood Count Survey go hand in hand.

It always seems to get real quiet that last 2 weeks of August.  Due out any day now, the Game and Fish counts will attempt to tell a story of the state of pheasants in the state of pheasants, South Dakota.  It will not tell the whole story however.

The road routes driven for the survey counts have not changed at all since the survey's inception in the early 1900's.  It is for statistical accuracy that this is so.

Habitat along these routes has changed dramatically in recent years.  Yet it does not tell the story of the state of pheasants off the beaten trail when habitat improvements or management is not measured.  This is the case for much of western South Dakota where pheasant hunting can be stellar yet the road count data does not vary much from year to year.

Additionally, the counts will not reflect the new enrollments of CRP driven by the low $3 corn prices.  Just last week two UGUIDE camps signed up over 1,300 acres in new CRP contracts.  One farm also commented that its neighbor signed up 5,000 acres on a neighboring adjacent farm.  If grain prices remain low, which is projected, we could see a run on CRP by farmers looking for instant signup cash from the USDA.

Since pheasants' lives are limited to a relatively small 4-5 mile life cycle area, the local habitat and weather really tell the story but too many people like to generalize the condition of pheasants in the state.  It is almost impossible to have a farm by farm, county by county analysis but that is just what is required to accurately depict the condition of pheasants in the state.

South Dakota Game Fish and Parks currently have no habitat programs for any landowner in the state that takes in hunters for as little as $1 in revenue per year.  Yet they credit the counts of pheasants in the state mainly to the 95% of land being privately owned in the state.  One could also assume that the miles of road driven for their surveys are largely miles adjacent to private land as opposed to public.  

Bottom line is anywhere you go in the state of South Dakota that has habitat acres you will find pheasants.  For these reasons UGUIDE has started tracking its own harvest data because we have found that the Game and Fish counts do not reflect the experience or quality of hunting that happens at our properties.  We post detailed information about the habitat acres on each of our properties and for the most part the harvest experienced at those properties is consistent with how the habitat is managed.

Last year UGUIDE hunters averaged 1.7 pheasants per person per day.  This was across the first 10 weeks of the season, across 11 properties and across 713 hunters.  This year, the general consensus is that farmers are seeing more birds this year than the last two years.  This year UGUIDE delivered 150 bags of food plot seed to UGUIDE Pheasant Camps.  We expect this to have a dramatic improvement on the pheasant harvest and sustainability at our properties.

Since Game and Fish do not disclose detailed route data it is very hard to discern if pheasants are down or up because of weather on the route or because of increase or loss of habitat along the route as no reference is made to either specific weather or route surroundings data.

The Game and Fish Survey is historically due out right about Labor Day.

Check Availability of UGUIDE South Dakota Fair Chase Pheasant Hunting Camps