Survey indicates South Dakota pheasant numbers up sharply
MITCHELL, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota saw a 47 percent increase from last year in its annual pheasant brood survey, according to a report issued by the state Game, Fish and Parks Department.
The department surveyed more than 100 state routes, each spanning 30 miles (48 kilometers), from late July through mid-August to collect data for the pheasant index. The statewide count released Monday found an average of about 2.5 pheasants per mile, up from about 1.7 last year.
This year’s count is similar to the nearly 2.7 pheasants-per-mile count observed in 2014, when hunters killed an estimated 1.2 million pheasants.
The number of roosters decreased 11 percent statewide compared to last year, but the number of hens increased by 24 percent, the report found.
Game, Fish and Parks Secretary Kelly Hepler said better weather helped this year, with the average pheasant brood size increasing 22 percent over last year.
“I know we were down with hunters last year with the dismal forecast,” Department Upland Game Biologist Travis Runia said. “I’ll be curious to see how many of those folks maybe come back this year, but we usually see a pop in hunters when we see better brood counts, for sure.”
However, pheasant counts in western South Dakota decreased by 5 percent. Runia said it’s difficult to get good survey conditions in that part of the state, which sees dry conditions and a lack of morning dew.
Though overall numbers are trending higher, only two areas surveyed this year — Mitchell and Sisseton — beat the 10-year average.
The 2018 pheasant hunting season will be the 100th in state history. The traditional statewide season opens Oct. 20 and runs through Jan. 6.