Brood count shows improvement for area

It is good news for most of South Dakota as the annual pheasant surveys show the states most prized hunting resource has rebounded a bit in 2018.
A year after devastating drought took its toll on the pheasant population, a welcomed relief to drought and a wide spread rebound in pheasant abundance occurred in 2018, the 100th pheasant season. The South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks (GF&P) conducts pheasant brood surveys each summer to evaluate the status of pheasant populations and predict pheasant population levels relative to previous years.
In 2018, survey indices were derived from 110, 30-mile pheasant brood routes that are distributed across South Dakota where pheasants are found in sufficient number for surveying. Brood members are counted throughout the survey period to estimate an average number of young per brood. Pheasants per mile (PPM) estimates are calculated by summing the product of mean brood sizes and broods observed with numbers of cocks and hens observed on each route. PPM estimates for 2017 and the average of the previous 10 years are compared with the 2018 survey results.
Routes are surveyed from 25 July through 15 August each year using standardized methods on mornings when weather conditions are optimal for observing pheasants. The route included in the Mobridge area is Campbell, Corson, Dewey, Potter (north and central routes), and Walworth counties.
The brood counts in the Mobridge area showed 2.69 birds per mile, up from 2.10 in 2017. It is still down from the 10-year average of 6.10 but up 28 percent over last year.
“In my normal day-to-day travels in the area I’m seeing more birds than last year,” said GF&P Conservation Officer Trevor Laine who works out of the Mobridge office. “Some areas around Mobridge are really good and some areas are still down.”
Laine said weather plays an important role in the number of pheasant chicks that survive. He said hail storms in the area in the spring may have had an impact on the population. Dry conditions also work against the young chicks as their number one food source, insects, depends on wetter weather for survival.
“Hunting is not going to be what it was 10 years ago but we should have a pretty good season,” said Laine. “If hunters get out and walk and work a little there should be some limits coming in but they probably won’t limit out every time they go out.”
West River surveys showed the numbers had dropped from 2017, but there were poor survey conditions that might have impacted the count according to the GF&P report. In the western S.D. area bird numbers dropped from 1.37 PPM to 1.30, a 5 percent change from 2017 and down 47 percent from the 10-year average.
In this year’s brood count the statewide PPM index for the 2018 pheasant brood survey increased 47 percent (1.68 to 2.47) compared to 2017. This year’s index is 41 percent lower than the 10-year average (2018 was 2.47, the 10-year average is 4.20). More hens and broods were counted while roosters declined slightly throughout the 110 survey routes compared to last year.
Statewide, 85 of the 110 survey routes had a higher PPM than 2017.
The number of roosters declined 11 percent from last year (798 vs. 895). The number of hens increased 24 percent from last year (1,216 vs. 984).
Total broods counted increased by 38 percent (1,009 vs. 730), while the statewide average brood size increased by 22 percent (6.08 vs. 4.99).
Average brood sizes increased in all parts of the state. The state wide average brood size for 2018 (6.08) is similar to the 10-year average (5.93).
Since PPM estimates are relative density estimates, comparisons are valid only between years within each local area.
The 2018 pheasant seasons are set as follow:
Youth pheasant is Saturday, Oct. 6, through Wednesday, Oct. 10. The resident only pheasant is Saturday, Oct. 13, through Monday, Oct. 15 and the traditional pheasant season starts on Saturday, Oct. 20, and ends Jan. 6, 2019.
The daily limit of rooster pheasants is three with a possession limit of 15 rooster taken.
– Katie Zerr –