Residents get first shot at pheasants
By Katie Zerr
Resident pheasant hunters in north central South Dakota should find a good number of birds as the opening of the pheasant season begins for them this weekend.
Brood count survey results for 2012 released in August, indicate the statewide population of the birds is up from last year, and especially in the Mobridge area. According to the annual count, South Dakota’s best pheasant hunting for 2012 may be in the Mobridge, Chamberlain, Pierre and Winner areas.
The survey showed Mobridge has 6.71 birds per mile, up from 5.73 in 2011. Results of the survey show that pheasant numbers grew in many areas of the state, due in large part to a mild winter and ideal weather during the nesting and brood-rearing season. Much of the improvement in the pheasant counts came from areas of the state that had a good habitat base.
In the Mobridge area, bird numbers are up 17 percent above the 2011 count, and up 1 percent over the 10-year average.
Biologists get their data from 107, 30-mile pheasant brood routes across South Dakota where there are enough pheasants to survey. Routes are surveyed from July 25 through Aug. 15 each year using standardized methods on mornings when weather conditions are best for observing pheasants.
“Right in our area we have seen a good increase in the bird numbers this year,” said Dan Jost of the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks Mobridge Office. “It is close, but not quite up to the numbers of the high count a few years ago.”
Jost said in the annual brood count survey, the count showed the broods were good sized and had hatched early.
“They should be showing their colors now and will be easier to recognize,” he said.
He said hunting areas between Mobridge and Eureka around Mound City and Selby that have been historically good hunting areas will be so again this year.
“Pheasants are doing real well in both east and west river areas. We are also seeing good pockets of birds in Dewey and Corson counties,” he said. “
Hunting here will be different than in other years, according to Jost as, because of the drought, much of the cover the birds use has been either cut for hay or harvested.
“The ditches have been hayed and some of the CRP that was released has been hayed and the corn crop has already been harvested,” he said.
With less cover, hunters may find the birds tougher to locate. Birds will seek uncut CRP, longer grass and cover areas like dried-up sloughs for protection. One local hunter said the large groups may have a tough time finding fields to walk and a good dog will be important in these conditions.
Hunters will also need to use extreme caution when hunting because of the drought conditions. Vehicles need to stay on the main roads, he said, because driving in the fields can easily start a fire.
“Hunters should carry water or a fire extinguisher in their vehicle in case a fire starts,” said Jost. “They can also carry a tamper or a heavy blanket to extinguish small fires before they get out of hand.”
Weather conditions for the resident opener on Saturday, call for a 40 percent chance of showers with temperatures at about 60 degrees. There will be a northwest wind at about 10 miles an hour.
On Sunday, it will be mostly sunny, 63 degrees with a west by northwest wind at 12 miles per hour. Non-resident season opens Saturday, Oct. 16.
Hunting hours this weekend are from noon Central Time until sunset.
Public hunting lands, statewide include:
• Hunting on public road rights of way is limited to those contiguous to and a part of public hunting lands open for hunting.
• U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Waterfowl Production Areas; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land adjacent to the Missouri River; U.S. Forest Service National Grasslands; U.S. Bureau of Reclamation land; State School and Public Lands; State parks, recreation areas, and lakeside use areas; GFP managed or leased property otherwise open to public hunting, including Game Production; Areas open during the regular pheasant season; GFP managed and leased property designated as walk-in areas and land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP).
A hunter’s daily limit is three roosters with a possession limit of nine roosters. Nine birds may not be possessed until after the third day of hunting.