Posts Tagged ‘South Dakota Game’

South Dakota Walk-In Area Program Turns 25

Friday, August 16th, 2013

Pheasants Forever member Steve Wolf and his bird dogs “Kahlua” the Lab and “Trigger” the German shorthaired pointer found success on a South Dakota Walk-In Area tract.

Pheasants Forever member Steve Wolf and his bird dogs “Kahlua” the Lab and “Trigger” the German shorthaired pointer found success on a South Dakota Walk-In Area tract.

One of the nation’s most popular programs among pheasant hunters, South Dakota’s Walk-In Access, turns 25 this year. Walk-In Access has provided landowners with extra financial incentive to keep land in habitat, and pheasant hunters have utilized the program extensively, maintaining South Dakota’s perch as the top pheasant hunting destination in the country.

SDCoverUnder the program, private land is leased for public access and there are currently more than one million acres of private land enrolled across the state. The program started in 1988 with 26 South Dakota landowners taking part. Now, 25 years later, three of those original 26 contracts still have land leased for Walk-In Area. The four individuals involved in the three original contracts – Bud Thorpe, Dwight and Harold Wookey, and Robert Weber were recently honored by the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department for their involvement since the program’s inception.

In addition to protecting habitat and increasing hunting access, South Dakota’s Walk-Area program has become a model for other states to initiate similar programs.

All available Walk-In Area lands for the upcoming pheasant hunting season are mapped and marked South Dakota’s 2013 Public Hunting Atlas.

Have you ever hunted South Dakota Walk-In Area lands? Did you find pheasant hunting success?

Anthony’s Antics Afield is written by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.organd follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

PF Praises S.D. Governor for Lifting State Land Acquisition Moratorium

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

It’s Pheasants Forever member Frank Alvine's wish to see his 1,000-acre Calico Canyon Ranch end up in as a public property in the hands of the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Department. Photo by John Pollmann

It’s Pheasants Forever member Frank Alvine’s wish to see his 1,000-acre Calico Canyon Ranch end up in as a public property in the hands of the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Department. Photo by John Pollmann

Pheasants Forever is praising South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard for ending a two-year moratorium on land acquisitions by the state’s Game, Fish & Parks Department (GFP). The decision will allow GFP – and sometimes with the partnership of Pheasants Forever – to periodically acquire land that can be permanently protected as wildlife habitat and opened for public recreation and hunting.

Currently, GFP’s Wildlife Division owns less than 0.6 percent of the land in South Dakota.  While land acquisitions by themselves cannot offset the drastic reductions in Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acreage in South Dakota (which has fallen to less than 1 million acres), new public parcels can be a valuable, and most importantly, permanent, conservation asset. They’re also purchased with revenue from hunting license sales and financial support from partners (such as Pheasants Forever) as opposed to tax dollars.

“Owning land that is specifically managed to benefit wildlife and those sportsmen and women who buy hunting licenses is an important tool used by GFP in our efforts to provide habitat and accessible hunting opportunity,” says GFP secretary Jeff Vonk. “Having this option as well as the other tools we use — such as our walk-in program through private-land leases and habitat incentives on private lands — will provide the greatest flexibility and success as our biologists and land managers go about their daily jobs.”

One Pheasants Forever member happy to see the moratorium end is Dr. Frank Alvine, who’s scenic 1,000-acre Calico Canyon Ranch is near Winfred, South Dakota.  “For the past fifteen years, I have included a provision in my will that gives the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks the first-right-of-refusal on the purchase of this property,” says Alvine, 74. “I’d like it to go to the department to see it protected and shared with others.”

Alvine originally purchased the first portion of the Lake County property in the 1970s. Time, money and hard work have turned what was an “overgrazed piece of ground with severe erosion problems,” as he puts it, into the showplace of habitat that it is today. Mallards dot the different wetlands now brimming with water while whitetail deer browse on the lush cool-season grasses growing on the glaciated hillsides.  The occasional bobolink rises from the prairie – its black and white markings standing in stark contrast to the backdrop of green – while the sounds of crowing rooster pheasants are almost constantly in the air. Loftier goals yet remain for the ranch, Alvine says, and the ending of the moratorium brings them closer to reality.

“I watched as my favorite duck sloughs were drained when I was a young hunter, and now I’m watching as we drain even more ground, plow more grass, take out trees, burn cattails – it’s frustrating to watch South Dakota transform before your very eyes,” Alvine says, “We’re witnessing a change in the quality of life for sportsmen in South Dakota. There are certain parcels of ground that were never meant to be broken, never meant to be changed.  I’d like to see this property stay this way, and I’d like to see it end up with the Game, Fish and Parks.

-John Pollmann (Twitter: @JohnPollmann) contributed to this report.

Anthony’s Antics Afield is written by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.organd follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

SD’s Pheasant Country PF Chapter Promotes Public Birding

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

The Morris-Muth Game Production Area was selected as the perfect location for the bird viewing blind because of the quality of its wetlands and upland habitat.

The Pheasant Country Pheasants Forever chapter based out of Mitchell, South Dakota, and partners have helped to place a new bird viewing blind at the Morris-Muth Game Production Area located 4 miles south of Fedora, South Dakota. The blind is aimed at providing opportunities for youth and others who would like to spend time in the outdoors viewing and photographing birds.

The bird viewing blind was a partner project that included Pheasants Forever, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks and others.

To kick start this project, the Pheasant Country Pheasants Forever chapter received a grant from the Barb & Eliot Protsch Charitable Gift Fund. The chapter has been looking to become more involved in Pheasants Forever’s No Child Left Indoors® initiative and designed the bird viewing blind as a way to meet that goal. The Morris-Muth GPA was selected because of its large numbers of waterfowl and upland birds.

The bird viewing blind project was envisioned by local Pheasants Forever volunteers, and the Pheasant Country Pheasants Forever chapter contributed to half of the project cost. Special thanks go to local Pheasants Forever members Debra Kuchera of Mitchell, David Allen, president of the Pheasant Country Pheasants Forever chapter and Doug Molumby of Mitchell, past president of the chapter. Others working on the bird viewing blind project include Mike Blaalid, Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist of Mitchell, Ryan Wendinger, Habitat Resource Biologist with the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks and Evan Meyer, Wildlife Conservation Officer in Miner County. The blind was designed by David Yeadon and Jerry Waldner of Quality Storage Buildings in Alexandria, South Dakota.

In addition to holding an upcoming ribbon ceremony, Pheasant Country Pheasants Forever chapter members will be connecting with local schools to inform them about the viewing blind’s availability (the blind is also accessible to those with disabilities).

Field Notes are written and compiled by Anthony Hauck Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauck.

Common SD Pheasant Hunting Violations

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

In South Dakota, "road hunting" is cause for many pheasant hunting violations.

When 10 percent of the nation’s pheasant hunters converge upon your state autumnally, hunter safety is a valid concern. It starts with hunters abiding by the rules, so I asked my buddy Clay Eberhart, who’s a Wildlife Conservation Officer with South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP), what the most common pheasant hunting violations he sees are:

1.  Vehicle road hunting violations. This occurs when people see that elusive young-of-the-year rooster and conduct the good ‘ol “J-Slide” by locking up the brakes on the gravel, and getting out to chase their quarry all the while leaving their vehicle smack dab in the middle of the road (sometimes in a crooked manner) with the doors wide open. The law does state people need to pull their vehicles to the side of the road as far as possible. I always tell people to pull as far to the right as possible, shut their doors, and shut the engine off. No pheasant is worth a traffic accident that could injure/kill/damage you or your hunting partners – dogs included. This is by far the most common violation we see. Statute 41-9-1.5. Motorized vehicles not to be used in hunting from highways–Restrictions.

2. Protrusion of firearms from motor vehicles. Most often, these people have their guns loaded with the barrel sticking out the window. This is a case where these folks feel they can’t waste a moment in getting to their quarry in the ditch. What most folks fail to realize is that we had a fatality last year – someone getting into a vehicle with a loaded firearm when that firearm discharged and killed the man’s wife from 3 feet away – from road hunting pheasants. I also investigated a similar incident in which the man was shot in the lower back from the backseat of a Chevy Suburban, in which the man was lucky to survive. A ’cased and unloaded gun’ law would help solve a lot of these issues, but that’s my humble opinion. 41:06:04:07. Protrusion of firearms from motor vehicles prohibited.

3. Hunting Too Close to Home, Church or School. Put simply, this is when people are road hunting, see a pheasant, jump out and shoot at the bird, all the while being within 660 feet of a house, church, school, or livestock. We get many calls each year, and have to deal with this violation frequently. This law again goes back to safety, in which people should not be shooting close to houses. It is often that houses are built in tree groves in South Dakota, and sometimes these houses cannot be seen. The GFP has made an effort to make “660′ Safety Zone” signs available that can be put up by a GFP staff member at a landowner’s request, or picked up from any regional office.  41-9-1.1. Certain highways and public rights-of-way excepted from restrictions

4. Shooting After Shooting Hours. What most folks fail to realize is that our vision as humans is terrible during crepuscular (dim lit) periods of the day, and that our sense of colors and depth perception is drastically reduced.  Not only does this account for the occasional hen being shot after sundown, but it also can be a factor in hunting accidents, where the victim was not seen by the shooter.  Anyone knows that once the sun goes down, blaze orange does not ‘pop’ against a backdrop of other colors. It is a simple rule that some people “forget” to follow.  And no, I don’t fall for the “My watch must be 10 minutes off…” excuse J.  41:06:08:01.Pheasant hunting season established — Open units and dates.

5. Shooting Pheasants Out of Window of Vehicle. These “hunters” seemingly can’t wait to get out of the vehicle to kill their quarry. This is an obvious infraction, and does not allow a fair playing field to the rest of the hunting public, the adjacent landowners, the pheasant itself, or the public people of the great state of South Dakota and its visitors. I cannot imagine hunting this way, but we see it every year. 41-8-37. Hunting from motor vehicle prohibited

Other common violations include:

  • Failure to use non-toxic shot on certain public areas
  • Failure to exhibit hunting license (i.e. forgetting license at home, not being able to show a Wildlife Conservation Officer your license)
  • Littering (most often cleaning birds in parking lots of public areas or road ditches)
  • Over-bagging
  • Transportation/plumage violations (not having a fully feathered head/wing/foot attached to bird).

“Most of these violations occur while ‘road hunting,’” Eberhart says. In South Dakota, hunting certain public right of ways is legal. “Road hunting is a tradition out here, and it can be very successful. However, people must follow these rules in order to keep road hunting alive; it has been on the chopping block during legislative sessions in the past.”

The pusher and blocker pheasant hunting technique is also fairly common in South Dakota (hunters pushing pheasants to other hunters blocking or posting at the end of a field), and Eberhart says his department investigates many hunting accidents every year because “a blocker was not seen by the pushers, and ends up getting a chest full of #5 lead.” “I investigated an accident last year where a man was shot from 25 yards and they pulled 46 pellets out of his chest, neck and cheek,” he says, “I always tell folks, wear lots of blaze orange, and never shoot at a pheasant unless there is plenty of ‘sky’ underneath it.”

SD Walk-In Area Rundown

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

More than 50,000 hunters found places to hunt last year on SD's 1.2 million Walk-In acres.

Producing a pheasant population numbering in the double digit millions lays your claim as a world-class pheasant hunting destination. Giving hunters successful options keeps them coming back to South Dakota.

If you have the greenbacks, you can pay to hunt. Hire a guide and bird dog(s). Lease land. Pay private landowners to hunt. Stay in a lodge so luxurious that the absence of a moat is the only thing keeping it from being a castle.  It’s a special treat that some circle on their calendar and point toward all year.

Some hunters abhor this pay-to-hunt style. Others don’t, but simply lack the money. And I know nonresident hunters who have the money, but draw the line at a $110ish license + fuel, food and a small-town hotel last seen in the movie Vacancy.

South Dakota isn’t unique in privatization of hunting land, but does stand out in offering a successful counter-option. Its Walk-In Area program – the state leases private land and opens it to public hunting – last year created 1.2 million acres open to access for the general pheasant hunting populous, including yours truly.

A recent study (postal and email surveys to a random sample of hunters) by the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department also states the Walk-In Area program helped boost South Dakota’s economy by at least $15 million last year. Considering the state spent $2.2 million to lease the 1.2 million acres, and considering the tough economy, that’s something to crow about.

South Dakota’s Walk-In Areas Program Survey Results

  • The study found about 37 percent of residents and 29 percent of nonresidents surveyed used walk-in areas for part of their hunting last year. Residents spent about 10 percent of their total hunting time in walk-in areas. The Game, Fish and Parks Department estimates there were 69,959 South Dakota hunters and 97,350 from outside the state last year. Do the math, and that’s more than 54,000 Walk-In users.
  • Most of the hunters who pursued pheasants and other game on the more than 1.2 million acres of land in the Walk-In Areas Program also said they were satisfied with it – 69 percent of resident hunters and 72 percent of nonresident hunters were satisfied with the program.
  • Most hunters said the program included good wildlife habitat and was important to their overall hunting.
  • Many hunters would like to see a list of what species are available at each specific Walk-In area.


Kansas, Montana, North Dakota and Nebraska also offer some unique public lands access programs for bird hunters.  In fact, last week’s USDA “Open Fields” announcement also opens up $50 million more in federal money for states to create their own Walk-In program or add to existing lands.

Mixed Bag – Friday Linkage

Friday, June 4th, 2010

  • PF's Bob St.Pierre, now published in Outdoor Life.

    “For the Love of Dogs” can be read at Outdoor Life and features well-penned pieces by Pheasants Forever’s own Bob St.Pierre (GSPs) and our friend John Devney from Delta Waterfowl (Labs). Now I’m awaiting the call from Outdoor Life to write an article on how awesome it is to have friends who own such dogs, and invite your dog-less self to hunt with them anyways.

  • Having formerly umpired V.F.W. and American Legion baseball, I empathize with embattled MLB umpire Jim Joyce a bit more than others. But I did find these tweets, amusing, especially the one about quail hunting.
  • With the help of Michigan Pheasants Forever, these students applied themselves more than I ever did.
  • The theme to one of my prom’s was “Captured in a Dream.” I’ve spent the last decade trying to figure out what exactly that meant. But if I could do it over again, this is the girl I’d ask out.
  • More outdoor programming bites the dust. Because you need more SportsCenter and English Premier League soccer
  • Navigating their previous site was like living in a vacuum in 1997, so kudos to the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department’s Website makeover.
  • I’ve never fly fished, but should I, I’ve found the right guide. I just hope she doesn’t make me wear a scarf, too. By the way, sorry, April, but if you want to be the “Official Pheasant Chick of Anthony’s Antics Afield,” you have to be handy with the steel, and I don’t mean steelhead.