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2017 Pheasant Season End Conclusions - Final Report

January 10, 2018 by

Forecasts

While I will say that GFP findings of 50% down was similar to our harvest data, it did indicate that the drought did have a major impact.  However, we still feel that the 50% was merely coincidental and GFP findings our vastly different than what we see at UGUIDE camps.

We also believe that forecasting in general is ineffective and inaccurate and often times very misleading.  For example it would be hard to isolate impacts of the drought on birds this year vs. the impacts of the proliferation of the chemical based Roundup Ready Corn and Soybean farming system.

Feedback

From opening weekend we started to get hunter feedback that would indicate ALL UGUIDE camps were impacted this year and not just camps located near ground zero for the drought like Mobridge for example.  Here is a list of the key findings from this season:

1.  High hen to rooster ratios from season beginning - This is normal what you find in the later weeks for the season but never early season.  As the season progressed it would indicate a poor hatch and there was no re-charge of roosters from a strong June hatch.  In a strong June hatch you could have as many as 12-15 chicks in a brood of which 65% would be roosters.

2. Consistently dwindling harvested birds per person averages on the 3rd and 4th day of hunting - This was also a consistent trend across the season and across all UGUIDE camps.  It either indicated that the bird numbers on a given farm could not hold up to the hunting pressure or hunters were not as motivated to hunt as hard as their hunt progressed.  This did not become obvious until later in the season when the indicators became more apparent.  This is further evidence of a poor hatch in general.

3. Few limits and lower HBPP (Harvested Birds Per Person) across the season - some limits were taken earlier in the season but on average much fewer limits than in most other years.  This was also the case across all camps and most weeks.

4.  A late crop harvest did not improve conditions for late season hunters - When the crop harvest completes around Thanksgiving or later the later season hunters usually fair better than the early season hunters.  That was not the case this year.  Possibly an indicator of poor numbers.

5.  Quality of habitat did not matter - We have some camps with habitat better than ever and very optimized for pheasants.  This is one of the reasons we feel GFP findings differ from what our hunters will experience at our camps and is usually true.  Out HBPP reports indicate that habitat quality was not able to mitigate the impacts of this spring and early summers drought.

6. A crop of grain was had but not a crop of pheasants - South Dakota posted its 4th largest corn crop ever.  How can this happen when just about every county in the state was declared a natural disaster area for drought?  It's because the rains did come after July 15.  Too late for new broods but not too late fro crops.  Many farmers and crop specialists would say that in many cases they were only a few days away from a major crop failure.

Conclusions

The unanimous reports of high hen numbers across all camps is favorable to aid in a potentially good hatch next spring. Birds can rebound in 1 year.  I have seen it many times.  One of our late season groups reported 31 points in one field.  Mostly hens.

The low HBPP across the state will cause much turnover for outfitters.  We did not see it at our camps because our hunters can tell the quality of habitat was there but birds were not and could rationalize the early drought reports which hit national media.  In general it is not a good practice to "fire your habitat manager" when there is an act of God impacting your season.  Leaving a well managed property because you do not understand the implications and risks of fair chase pheasant hunting is not wise.

We learned that great habitat can mitigate a lot of natures harshness but not this drought.  When there is no moisture there are no bugs and there are no birds.  Newly hatched chicks require small invertebrates for the first 8 weeks of their life to survive.  

Other factors like low total CRP acres, increased Roundup Ready Corn and Soybean acres, and reduced small grain and grassland pasture acres is also a major impact.  The new farm bill coming out as early as this spring can help with this substantially.  Contact your congressman and request and increase to the 24 million acre cap in the current farmbill.  We would like to see 32 million acres or higher.  This would also help the poor grain prices farmers are experiencing as well.  The chemical based cropping systems are not helping wildlife either.

The good news is there is much happening to optimize the habitat acres and even the working land crop acres the state has.  With the good habitat we have at our camps we still depend on good weather to deliver a bumper crop of pheasants.

Posted in: News, Pheasant Outlook, Pheasant Harvest Report, Conservation, Habitat Management


Reader Comments

3 Comments on 2017 Pheasant Season End Conclusions - Final Report


  • hunted week before turkey day and up til. started in Kennebec,presho,chamberlin with awful results. guys that had dead roosters @motel did not even know the majority that they had killed were pen birds,not wild. left the area and finished in SW portion of the state. fair amount of birds present,ample opportunities most days and all the birds harvested were wild and of the 50plus taken only 4 were juvenile birds,rest al @least two years old/plenty of hens. mature birds are much harder to hunt which may have hampered some success. a good winter/spring with moisture could turn it around in a hurry.

    dman January 16, 2018 12:01 PM

  • As usual, I enjoy your comments. Just a hint of agreeing that the State may have been correct in their projections---but you wouldn't/couldn't accept the fact fully. Your camps may be terrific, but nature is nature, and why not admit it! Have a great winter. I appreciate your commitment to this wonderful bird, and the hunters that cherish our time in SD. Someday I would enjoy spending a day in the field with you! Cheers, Mark

    Mark Constantine January 18, 2018 12:01 PM

  • I have owned 30 acres of land surrounded by trees 10 miles north of Aberdeen for over 30 years. I quit hunting pheasant 3 years ago due to low numbers. I have seen many birds on this land in past years as much of it is never harvested. In the whole year of 2017 I saw 1 pheasant using the land. After no hunting for 3 years I walked the trees early this winter and did not even see a hen. I believe the chemicals used by farmers are killing either the birds themselves or the food they require to live. Songbirds were nonexistent the summer of 2017. Nothing but crickets. And I am sure they will have a spray for them soon as well.

    Dennis March 2, 2018 12:03 PM

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