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2019 Fall South Dakota GFP Survey Response by UGUIDE

September 06, 2019 by

The official 2019 South Dakota Fall Pheasant Hunting Brood Count Survey Outlook Forecast Report by Game, Fish and Parks can be found here.

In summary, what you will find is overall counts are down 17% statewide from 2018, which was up 47% over the previous year.

It will once again be interesting to see what UGUIDE pheasant harvest data does compared to this report.

The very telling side from the SDGFP survey is Figure. 5 called "Change in CRP from 2007-2018".  This still shows CRP down 552,601 acres.  This is the problem.  Don't look for 2007 bird numbers to return until the 2007 acres return.  Not mentioned here is the amount of grassland acres converted to cropland since 2007.  I believe this number is in the neighborhood of 7 million acres.

Now with that said, the same is always true; we know the right habitat produces pheasants.  And, those with that habitat will produce birds.  UGUIDE camps' acres have not declined at all since 2007.  The number of camps has ( a telling sign of the times) but not the acres on the camps that remain.  

Another unmentioned variable in the report that may make a big difference is the 4 million acres of cropland in South Dakota that did not get planted this year.  Our farm alone is surround by 75% of these fields and I can tell you first hand that they have been undisturbed and weedy through the prime nesting season.  Fields will eventually get a pass or two of herbicide as required by the USDA but I just shot a limit of doves over one of these fields just a few days ago.  Bottom line is it is great habitat for birds.  You could have walked this 80 acre unplanted field with a dog like you would for pheasants and gotten your 15 bird dove limit.  These may be honey holes if there is public Walk-in cropland that did not get planted.  Don't overlook these when you scout.

I see pheasants and new broods all the time when I am out working our farm's habitat but I cannot answer the question "How are the birds looking?" until we get to December when all our hunters have done their harvesting.  I'm not looking for 2007 numbers because we do not have 2007 habitat acres.  The new Gov. (Noem) is trying to address this but the impact from the state level is minimal with policies that prevent license dollars generated by private outfitters in the state to go back to those operators in the form of ANY habitat implementation cost share.  This is state law and it needs to change.

We installed 7 acres of new wetlands CRP grass this spring.  This plot is where I have seen the most new broods of pheasants on the farm.  5-6 broods of good size in one pass around the perimeter. This CRP looks very similar to the unplanted cropland acres.  Very sparse, short and weedy.  Biologists call this "Early Successional Habitat".  This type of habitat is what is required to get back to 2007 pheasant numbers production.  There is some new CRP enrollment going on but incentives are decreased from before and interest is limited.  December will offer a general signup.  It would be awesome if the state could regain those 500,000 CRP acres reduced since 2007. 

I believe that there will be good pheasant hunting out there this season. You just gotta know where to look for it.

Posted in: News, SD GFP News, Pheasant Outlook


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