Posts Tagged ‘South Dakota pheasant hunting’

Top 25 Pheasant Hunting Towns in South Dakota

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Top25_ENewsletter (1)

For those who make the annual pilgrimage to the best pheasant hunting destination in the world, most can attest to the phenomenal wingshooting offered on the prairies and grasslands of South Dakota.

See also:

Listed in alphabetical order, every single option has the potential to provide a phenomenal hunting trip in South Dakota. And not just pheasants, but sharp-tailed grouse, prairie chickens and Hungarian partridge all provide viable opportunities as well. We invite our readers to share thoughts – what are some other cities, small towns or hole-in-the-wall locations that could make a great destination this fall? Because in South Dakota, there are definitely more than 25…there’s no place like it!

Aberdeen- Home to the Million Dollar Bird, Aberdeen is known worldwide for producing ringnecks. With more than 200,000 acres of public hunting ground accessible, including 24,000 acres of Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (the most CREP acres in the state) walk-in hunting lands, this area of northeast South Dakota is a traveling pheasant hunter’s delight.

Akaska- Looking for seclusion during your hunting trip? The scenery changes to the west of town in the river bluff country. Travel in any direction to find public hunting ground, or hunt the brushy edges offered in this remote part of the state for hunting success. Pheasants and sharp-tailed grouse dominate this landscape in hefty numbers with a 70 percent increase for ringneck numbers from 2013.

Britton- Although added upland habitat losses and bad weather have plagued the area around Britton in north-central South Dakota, pheasants and sharp-tailed grouse can still be found in relatively fair numbers. There is also the added option of traveling to North Dakota during the morning hours to provide more hunting opportunities.

Brookings- Now featuring the new regional headquarters for Pheasants Forever, Brookings can be included in the “Top 25” if you know where to look. The Brookings area has a large quantity of Waterfowl Production Areas acreage within a reasonable distance of town . Thinking about attending college in Brookings? If you have a passion for wildlife habitat conservation, join the South Dakota State University Chapter of Pheasants Forever and take an active role in shaping upland habitat in South Dakota.

Chamberlain- The toughest decision you will need to make in Chamberlain is whether or not to get up early and catch a limit of world-class walleyes before pheasant hunting begins at 10 a.m.! Boasting the South Dakota’s highest pheasant population index for the 2014 season, Chamberlain is an easy destination for a fall getaway.

Eureka- With pockets of pheasants and sharp-tailed grouse available to the savvy hunter, plenty of public land opportunity exists around the city of Eureka. In a city with a population less than 900 people, getting away from the crowds is easy and creates a stress-free environment for hunting.

Fort Thompson/Lower Brule Reservation- Located directly north of Chamberlain, Fort Thompson can be found within tribal lands on the Crow Creek/Lower Brule Reservations. Pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse and prairie chickens can all be pursued on these areas among food plots, shelterbelts and well-managed CRP fields. The annual pheasant brood survey for Lower Brule Sioux Reservation indicates a huge comeback for ring-necked pheasants. Rebounding from last year’s (2013) unprecedented low population, pheasants have responded to favorable weather and habitat conditions. Total pheasants per mile (6.7) are 415 percent higher compared to 2013 and 32 percent higher compared to the last 10-year-average.

Gettysburg- Located in the heart of pheasant country, and with opportunities available for both pheasants and sharp-tailed grouse. The Missouri River corridor is a short distance away with plenty of public land available to the north and east of town.

Gregory- The city of Gregory is another prong of South Dakota’s famed “Golden Triangle” pheasant hunting region – the area from Gregory to Winner and to Chamberlain. Think about it, would a city have a building-sized statue of a pheasant if it wasn’t a seriously great pheasant hunting destination?

Hecla- Adjacent to the Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Hecla is northeast of Aberdeen and has a great reputation for wing-shooting. Just outside of town, hunters don’t have to venture far to find vast amounts of CREP and Walk-In Areas to chase wily roosters and sharp-tailed grouse during the fall season.

Hoven- Found to the west of Aberdeen, Hoven is a small town with a rich hunting heritage. Plenty of outfitters exist in the area to offer exciting upland hunting. Public access is decent with Walk-In Areas and Waterfowl Productions Areas.

Huron- Offering nearly 125,000 publicly accessible acres within a 60-mile radius of the city, Huron has acquired the name of “Ringneck Nation” for good reason. The local Heartland Region Chapter of Pheasants Forever is an annual stop for nonresident hunters at the Huron Event Center on the eve before the pheasant opener.

Lemmon- Within visual distance of North Dakota on the north side of County Road 19, this city is a staging area to one of the most unique upland bird hunting adventures to be had in South Dakota. Offering a unique mix of pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse and Hungarian partridge, there is plenty of room to roam on 155,000 acres of the Grand River National Grasslands.

Miller- Miller is a small town with a big reputation for hunting. Although less public land exists near town, working with local landowners in the area can produce the hunt of a lifetime for pheasant hunters willing to get to know local landowners.

Mitchell- Hosting the largest Pheasants Forever membership banquet in the U.S., Mitchell is home to the Pheasant County Chapter of Pheasants Forever which holds its annual banquet at the famed Corn Palace. Mitchell is considered a premier pheasant hunting destination and provides access to many other areas in the state for those who are traveling a considerable distance.

Mobridge- Historically ranking as one of the top pheasant producing areas in South Dakota, the city of Mobridge draws roughly half as many hunters as nearby counties to the east. Walworth County features over 50,000 acres of lands accessible for public hunting.

Parkston- Located in the southeastern portion of the state, Hutchinson County now contains a fair amount of publicly accessible land, most of it enrolled in CREP. The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks notes that most of the CREP acres within the county are new contracts of diverse CRP. With this in mind, Hutchinson County should be a pheasant producing area for hunters to target, as well as a relatively short drive for non-residents from Minnesota, Nebraska and Iowa.

Pierre- Bordered on two sides by reservation lands and to the south by national grasslands, Pierre showed a 142 percent increase for its pheasant population from 2013. Long known for its outstanding pheasant hunting and picturesque landscapes, a cast-and-blast adventure for walleyes and pheasants during the October season is a tough trip to beat.

Presho- Located in the south-central portion of the state in Lyman County, which boasts some of the highest pheasant numbers found anywhere; Presho lies just off Interstate 90 and is about halfway between Sioux Falls and Rapid City. Prairie grouse are a likely option here, too.

Redfield- Home to the new Spink County Chapter of Pheasants Forever and known for being the “Pheasant Capital of the World,” Redfield is an outstanding location – an easy drive for Minnesota and Wisconsin residents on Highway 212 – and an easy area to circle in your hunting atlas.

Trail City/Standing Rock Reservation- Located within the Standing Rock Reservation, upland bird hunters will find plenty of action chasing pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse and prairie chickens. Little known by residents and non-residents alike, reservations within the state can offer exceptional outdoor opportunities (note: reservations in South Dakota have their own specific seasons and regulations).

Vivian- Located at the intersection of I-90 and Highway 83 directly west of Chamberlain, pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse and greater prairie chickens await your arrival on the Fort Pierre National Grasslands. If you’re looking for a not-so-casual walk in the field, enjoy all of the 116,000 acres offered at Fort Pierre!

Watertown- Known for its inviting character and historical pheasant numbers, Watertown is working its way back to becoming a top destination in South Dakota for pheasant hunting. Located in a major prairie pothole region of the state, Watertown is surrounded by great winter and nesting cover which can produce a bountiful crop of pheasants given good weather conditions. Stop by the Terry Redlin Museum after your hunt to view some of the greatest wildlife paintings of all time from a man who regularly contributed to Pheasants Forever banquets across the country.

White Lake- Located halfway between Chamberlain and Mitchell, public parcels offer upland hunting opportunities. Waterfowl Production Areas can be found in quantity to the north and south of White Lake. Using your morning hours before the 10 a.m. start, take a trip to Chamberlain and focus on the bluff country bordering the Missouri River for a change of scenery.

Winner- Found in south central South Dakota, Tripp County is known for top-notch pheasant hunting- in past years, the Winner area has ranked #1 in South Dakota for pheasants harvested. Prairie grouse opportunities are also abundant here.

-Jared Wikund is Pheasants Forever’s public relations specialist. Email him at jwiklund@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter at @wiklund247.

Refresh & Conserve With Pepsi-Cola of Mitchell, S.D.

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

PF.Pepsi

Pepsi-Cola of Mitchell is proud to partner with Pheasants Forever for the Refresh & Conserve program.  Pepsi will donate 5 cents to Pheasants Forever for every Pepsi 20oz bottle sold between October 1, 2014 and November 31, 2014 in the Mitchell, Pierre, Huron and Chamberlain, S.D. areas.

Pheasants are an important part of the South Dakota economy and Pheasants Forever is focused on working with state conservation policy leaders to enhance upland habitat for long-term sustainability of pheasant hunting traditions. All proceeds will be used at a local level to help improve South Dakota’s pheasant habitat.

“As an avid outdoorsman, I’m excited to help launch the Refresh & Conserve program and contribute to one of my favorite hobbies, pheasant hunting,” said Michael Shinstine, Pepsi-Cola of Mitchell. “I know pheasant hunting plays an important role in the South Dakota economy. I look forward to working with our local communities and giving back to a cause that I am so passionate about.”

Field Notes are compiled by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s online editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

S.D. Pheasant Brood Survey: Region Breakdown

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

SDbrood

The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks has completed the annual pheasant brood survey and the results show a 76 percent increase in the statewide pheasants-per-mile index from 2013: 2014 Pheasant Outlook.

Despite the 76 percent bump this year, South Dakota statewide pheasant numbers are still a long ways from the recent modern highs of the mid-to late 2000s, checking in at 53 percent below the long-term average. The statewide pheasant-per-mile index is similar to 2002 when hunters harvested 1.26 million roosters.

Additional South Dakota pheasant resources:

Field Notes are compiled by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s online editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

Positive Pheasant Forecast Needs to Be Tempered by Reality

Monday, August 25th, 2014

A rooster pheasant flushes and glides to heavier cover on Sand Lake NWR in South Dakota. Photo credit: Tom Koerner/USFWS

A rooster pheasant flushes and glides to heavier cover on Sand Lake NWR in South Dakota. Photo credit: Tom Koerner / USFWS

The South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks just recently completed their annual pheasant count. While the results won’t be available for a couple weeks, from everyone’s observations it appears as though pheasant numbers could be up from last year’s dismal count. If that’s true, that will be good news not only for South Dakota pheasant hunters but also for the countless businesses that benefit from the millions of dollars in revenue the tradition generates annually. Pheasant hunting is a true bellwether of the high quality of life South Dakotans have come to cherish. Supporting the habitat necessary to this time honored tradition benefits all South Dakotans economically, in clean waters and quality of life.

But if there indeed is an increase in pheasant numbers, that good news needs to be tempered. The “pheasant crisis” South Dakota has experienced over the past few years has not been solved. The findings will simply mean that a winter, spring and summer conducive to survival rates for adults and their broods have ticked the pheasant count upward. Next year may bring a far different set of circumstances.

The long-view for pheasant success in South Dakota calls for a stop to the upland habitat loss of recent years. Photo by Matt Morlock / Pheasants Forever

The long-view for pheasant success in South Dakota calls for a stop to the upland habitat loss of recent years. Photo by Matt Morlock / Pheasants Forever

If South Dakota truly wants to increase and stabilize its pheasant population, the issue of declines in pheasant habitat must be addressed. While tough winters and wet springs play a role in population changes, it’s the loss of habitat that’s responsible for the long-term decline of pheasants in the state. This habitat loss is the result of CRP and native prairie conversion, as well as drained wetlands and cattail sloughs. Since 2006, more than 450,000 acres of grasslands and prairies in South Dakota have been converted from wildlife habitat to row crops.

That is why I and many others are so hopeful about the upcoming recommendations of the Governor’s Pheasant Habitat Work Group. The Work Group has a unique opportunity before it to make policy recommendations that will permanently increase and stabilize pheasant populations by addressing the primary problem – habitat. There are dozens of different programs and practices that can be implemented to create higher quality habitat including: CRP, buffers, pollinator plots and cattail sloughs, as well as preserving all the areas that are difficult to farm that often have a lower cost-benefit ratio. There are also opportunities to better manage tremendous existing habitat throughout South Dakota, such as Waterfowl Production Areas, Game Production Areas, school lands, tribal lands and roadside ditches, for wildlife that is already on the ground.

Without addressing the problem of declining habitat, South Dakota will face a future of lower pheasant numbers, punctuated by population crashes as dictated by harsh winters, wet springs and/or drought. The resulting “boom-bust” cycle will not only have a negative effect on South Dakota’s time-honored family tradition of pheasant hunting, it will be devastating to businesses and their employees ranging from motels to restaurants to guide services to sporting goods stores. When populations are healthy, pheasant hunting brings $223 million into South Dakota each year and creates 4,500 jobs.

South Dakota has a unique opportunity to not only significantly improve pheasant habitat for the long-term, it can show that through creative management practices that farming and wildlife can be compatible. It does not have to be an either/or situation. Both industries are vitally important to this state and I believe South Dakota’s inherent can-do attitude will make it possible to have a strong agricultural industry and productive wildlife habitat that will not only produce an abundance of pheasants and other game, but also help assure cleaner water and healthier grasslands.

I am looking forward to seeing the official results of the road count and what I hope will be good news. I am also looking forward to the recommendations of the governor’s task force and the subsequent actions of policy makers that will hopefully help to assure that South Dakota will forever be known as the “Pheasant Capital of the World.”

-Dave Nomsen leads Pheasants Forever’s new Regional Headquarters in Brookings, S.D.

My Favorite Shotgun for Pheasants

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

my-favorite-shotgun-for-pheasants-M

Guns have been an important part of my life, since I was old enough to shoot –guns to hunt with, guns to shoot, and also guns for collecting. Often I’m asked which gun is my favorite; but there’s no simple answer to that question. You see, being a shooter, a hunter and a collector, and having quite a few years of experience, I have many favorite guns; it just depends on what I’m hunting or shooting.

Pheasant hunting has lots of different facets — early season, late season, wild birds and released birds. While I’ve hunted all of these, most of my experience has been with released birds — sometimes on game farms here in Missouri, but other times on the vast prairies of the Dakotas. In my experience, released pheasants generally hold tighter for the dogs and fly a little slower than the wild ones. Wild birds typically require more lead, heavier loads and tighter chokes.

So my favorite shotgun, for most of the pheasant hunting that I get to do, is a 20 gauge over and under, choked improved cylinder and modified – that I’ve had for several years. Now remember I’m also a gun collector and always prefer a vintage gun to something more modern. This is a Belgian-made Browning Superposed. It’s very special to me because it was made the year I was born and is documented as having been in the first shipment of 20 gauges shipped to the United States – in 1949.

On a recent hunt up in the Dakotas, I took my favorite shotgun for pheasants and also a 12 gauge side by side – in case the shots were longer. I started with the 20 and never took the 12 gauge out of the case.

Every rooster that flushed near me was down cold with one shot from the lower barrel, except for one time when we flushed a report pair. The second bird came up over my head and rather than waiting for him to level out, I tried to show off and shoot him in the head as he went over the top. I missed! Anyway, for me at least, a favorite gun is dependent on the game I’m hunting, how well the gun hits what I’m shooting at and of course it’s going to be a vintage gun that could tell lots of stories, if only it could talk.

Larry Potterfield
Hecla, South Dakota
14 November 2013

Larry Potterfield is the owner and founder of MidwayUSA. Read more at Larry’s Short Stories.

South Dakota Sets 2014 Pheasant Hunting Season Dates

Friday, March 21st, 2014

South Dakota annually draws upwards of 100,000 nonresident pheasant hunters. Photo by Sam Stukel

South Dakota annually draws upwards of 100,000 nonresident pheasant hunters. Photo by Sam Stukel

The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission finalized the state’s pheasant hunting seasons.

The Commission sets season dates in the early spring to give hunters a chance to plan their fall schedules.

Dates of note for 2014 include:

·         Pheasant: Oct. 18-Jan. 4

·         Youth Pheasant: Oct. 4-8

·         Resident Only Pheasant: Oct. 11-13

Field Notes are compiled by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

Winter Pheasant Habitat Conditions

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

Heavier snowfalls were seen in the Great Lakes region of pheasant country. Photo by Brian Ferguson

The heaviest snowfalls were seen in the Great Lakes region of pheasant country. Photo by Brian Ferguson

Two factors are of critical importance to maintaining healthy pheasant populations: weather and available habitat. While these elements affect pheasants year-round, they’re highlighted annually as the harshest season comes to an end and pheasants begin their next reproductive cycle. A tough winter can certainly result in adult bird mortality, but the real key is getting healthy and strong hens into spring nesting season. Healthy hens lead to larger clutches of eggs, which adds up to more chicks headed toward autumn.

Generally speaking, the winter of 2013-2014 was toughest on pheasants and pheasant habitat in the Great Lakes region where heavy snows and bitter cold made for a long winter that continues despite the calendar turning to spring.  Meanwhile, the Dakotas experienced a relatively mild winter, while the lack of snow accumulation across parts of the Great Plains has biologists concerned, the moisture being needed to restore habitat conditions following three years of drought. Here’s a state-by-state breakdown:

Editor’s Note: Additional states may be added as information becomes available.

Colorado

While other regions of pheasant country experienced too much snowfall, it’s been the exact opposite in Colorado, where the state’s pheasant population has been tremendously suppressed by two years of extreme drought. “This winter has been drier than preferred in terms of the potential to rebuild soil moisture levels necessary to encourage development of this year’s nesting cover, brood cover and survival habitats,” says Ed Gorman, small game manager with the Colorado Division of Wildlife, “Residual nesting cover is very limited after successive drought years, which will likely force hens to nest in annually available habitats.” While pheasant survival has not been reduced by the few winter weather events that have occurred, Gorman says much more moisture is needed to improve the degraded habitat conditions, and a few more winter events, even if severe, would have been welcomed. “Recovery begins with significant precipitation (either rain or snow) that will allow habitat to recover.”

Illinois

Northern Illinois counties (north of I-80) were hit with a lot of snow, some ice and very cold temperatures that kept the snow and ice on the ground for several months, according to Stan McTaggart, agriculture and grassland program manager with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. At first glance, those conditions indicate bad news for upland birds, but McTaggart isn’t rushing to judgment. “Preliminary observations from current research on two Pheasant Habitat Areas are showing surprisingly limited losses so far this winter. The generally good survival of birds in these areas may not be typical of all birds in Illinois as these study areas provide some of the best habitat in the state. Birds in marginal habitat may not have fared as well.” In what hopefully signals a trend going forward, McTaggart notes an uptick in enrollment in Illinois’ State Acres For Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) program, which helps conserve upland habitat.

Indiana

It’s been a tough winter for birds in Indiana, where the state recorded its sixth coldest winter and a top-three measurement of snowfall across the pheasant range of Indiana, according to N. Budd Veverka, Farmland Game Research Biologist with the Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife.

Iowa

Snowfall has been significant in northeast, north-central, and the east-central regions of Iowa, continuing an unprecedented run of snowy winters topping more than 30” of accumulation. History says that doesn’t bode well for the pheasant population, but that’s presuming a wetter-than-normal spring ensues, which is typical after a snowy winter. Areas that didn’t receive as much snow this year included the southwest and west-central regions of Iowa, according to Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife research biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Bogenschutz is optimistic that pheasant and quail numbers can improve in the southern half of the state this year, and the best bit of news is once continuous Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) signups begin, 50,000 acres will be available through the Iowa Pheasant Recovery program.

Kansas

Moisture is also the name of the game in Kansas, where precipitation this winter has been normal to below-normal depending on location. “Following three years of extreme drought across most of the state, spring precipitation will be necessary to replenish soil moisture and create adequate conditions for pheasant production,” says Jeff Prendergast, small game specialist with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. While late summer 2013 rains improved habitat conditions slightly, winter wheat is important for providing nesting cover in Kansas, and as of last fall, 22 percent of winter wheat was rated poor to very poor, with just 34 percent rated good to excellent. On the habitat front, Prendergast says his department is working to concentrate additional resources into the two recently-established “Pheasant Focus Areas” in the state.

Michigan

Like the other Great Lakes states, Michigan’s pheasants have suffered through a long winter. Pheasants Forever was excited to announce the addition of Bill Vander Zouwen earlier this month as our new regional representative for the state. Vander Zouwen brings 20 years of top level experience as the former wildlife section chief for the Wisconsin DNR.  In his role with Pheasants Forever, Vander Zouwen will be focused on the Michigan Pheasant Restoration Initiative, which has a goal to reestablish pheasant habitat on key areas across the state.

Minnesota

Serious winter weather arrived early in Minnesota and hasn’t left yet. “This has been an extremely cold winter. Many areas have experienced more than 50 days with minimum air temperatures at or below 0°F,” says Nicole Davros, upland game project leader with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, “Snow drifts have filled all but the largest cattail marshes, so good winter cover has become more limited. Birds are taking advantage of food plots and are utilizing roadsides in areas where the snow has become too deep or crusted over.” Davros notes deep snow didn’t develop until late January, and the deepest snow depths occurred outside the state’s core pheasant range. And within that core range – west-central, southwest, and south-central areas of the state – strong winds helped keep fields open for feeding. While the winter has been tough at times, it pales in comparison to the 58,000 acres of undisturbed grassland habitat lost in the state’s pheasant range. To combat this acreage loss, Minnesota continues to permanently protect habitat through land acquisition via its voter-approved Legacy Amendment. Hunters will be happy to hear the state is also expanding its Walk-in Access (WIA) program from 28 to 35 counties in 2014.

Missouri

Like points further north, Missouri’s winter was characterized by record lows and numerous large snowfall events, says Beth Emmerich, resource scientist with the Missouri Department of Conservation, who adds that because cover and food resources were impacted by the severe weather, she expects birds will be going into breeding condition in relatively poor condition.

Montana

While winter arrived early and a stretch of December included prolonged snow and cold, a warm-up in mid-January melted most of the snow in most of eastern Montana, and there’s been little snowfall since. “The lack of snow cover throughout most of the winter, current habitat conditions and an abundance of food mean pheasants have fared well throughout most of their range,” says Ryan Williamson, Region 6 upland game bird biologist for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks. While no firm prediction about the breeding season can be made yet, Williamson says if the mild winter continues and spring conditions play out favorably, it should be a good breeding season. “We often get late winter and early spring snow events that can delay nesting (as witnessed in the spring of 2011 and a little in 2013) but as of now, the winter shouldn’t have had a huge impact on the birds’ bodies or habitat conditions,” he says. Last year’s favorable weather generated some of the best habitat conditions in Montana in a long time, but while the quality improved, it’s the overall quantity that has upland game managers and hunters concerned. “.  The largest impact right now on the landscape is the huge decrease in CRP acres across the state, particularly across northern Montana (Hi-Line),” Williamson says, “The CRP loss since 2010 is just over 1 million acres for the state, with more than 500,000 acres in the last year (2012-2013). Of those 500,000, almost 330,000 acres were across the Hi-Line.” Like other continuous Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) practices across the country, landowners in Montana were very receptive to the state’s Pheasant and Prairie Pothole State Acres For Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) programs, enrolling and using up the available allotment quickly and protecting habitat in the process.

Nebraska

The winter in Nebraska has been defined by cold. “There have been periodic snow events across the state, but nothing I would classify as devastating.  I don’t expect a huge impact on pheasants, but it was very cold for long periods of time,” reports Dr. Jeffrey J. Lusk, Upland Game Program Manager with the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission. Nebraska’s pheasant population is still reeling from a double whammy of habitat loss and drought, but Lusk reports the southwest portion of the state – where pheasant abundance has typically been highest – is poised to bounce back provided there’s adequate moisture this spring to promote lush nesting habitat. It’s also in southwest Nebraska where Lusk says the state is looking more closely at a promising wheat-stubble incentive program. “During the drought, most successful hunters in the area reported hunting wheat stubble fields,” Lusk said, adding the study will be extended a few more years.

North Dakota

Winter started out early and extreme in December, but since then, pheasants have been spared from brutal conditions. “A lack of snow has provided many feeding areas, birds are able to feed on uplands, and little stress has been noted in birds because they can get to food,” reports Stan Kohn, upland game management supervisor with the North Dakota Game & Fish Department. Snow cover may even be too low in some areas. “The lack of snow cover to date may set the stage for dry conditions throughout many counties in southwest North Dakota that were showing borderline drought conditions late last summer,” Kohn said, noting that snowfall in the state’s pheasant range is about 50 percent below normal. And at the northern edge of pheasant country, North Dakota hasn’t fully escaped winter’s wrath until May. “A big unknown will be weather conditions in this part of the country in the next six weeks,” Kohn says, “Late spring snowstorms can be a real problem with pheasants in March and early April.” While grassland conversion is continuing at a rapid pace in North Dakota, Kohn notes his department is promoting new habitat options for expired/expiring Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands, as the North Dakota Game & Fish Department has received a $1.9 million grant through the state’s Outdoor Heritage Fund to direct toward this effort.

Ohio

Ohio pheasants took a hit this winter, which was a severe period featuring snowfall, long durations of snow cover and extreme cold. “Ohio pheasants undoubtedly struggled to find sufficient food and cover during this severe winter,” reports Mark Wiley, wildlife biologist with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife, “A typical Ohio winter has intermittent snow cover, which provides pheasants with ample opportunity to forage for waste grain and other seeds on the bare ground. This year, persistent snow cover likely forced pheasants to venture further from shelter in search of food, thereby increasing the risk of predation.” Wiley notes there is a habitat bright spot: More than 10,000 acres in the Ohio Pheasant State Acres For Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) program will be available as a continuous signup practice as part of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), acres that will only be available within the primary pheasant range in the state.

South Dakota

South Dakota’s pheasant range has received only about 50 percent of its normal snowfall this winter, which is good news for the nation’s largest pheasant population. “Pheasant winter survival is higher when there is minimal snow cover such as this past winter,” says Travis Runia, lead pheasant biologist with the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department, “The winter has not been stressful to pheasants this year and we expect that survival was higher than normal. Our population usually increases after winters with below normal snowfall, given nesting conditions are also favorable.” Runia notes a very severe blizzard did occur in the western quarter of South Dakota, which likely resulted in high mortality of pheasants outside their primary range, but in the rest of the state’s cattail sloughs and shelterbelts are providing excellent winter habitat due to the limited snow cover. With hopes turning to a productive breeding season, the state’s Pheasant Habitat Work Group, appointed by Governor Dennis Daugaard, continues its work. “The group is tasked with reviewing the many habitat-related comments received in conjunction with the Governor’s Pheasant Habitat Summit, which was held in December,” Runia says, “The group will deliver a report to the governor with a list of practical solutions to the many threats to pheasant habitat in the state by the summer of 2014.” With fingers crossed for a productive spring nesting season, South Dakota appears set for an autumn pheasant rebound.

Wisconsin

Like their Viking neighbors to the west, “The Dairy State” has suffered through a long and cold winter.  Pheasants Forever was excited by the embrace of the 21,000 people who attended National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic in Milwaukee this past February, demonstrating the state’s enthusiasm for the uplands.  In particular, Pheasants Forever was encouraged by the 136 landowners representing 30,000 acres who visited the Landowner Habitat Help Desk for conservation assistance during the event.

Field Notes are compiled by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

Dog of the Day: “Otto”

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Otto

John Zitel and his chocolate Labrador retriever, “Otto,” have made an annual opening week pheasant hunting trip to South Dakota since Otto was just seven-months-old. Now seven-years-old, Otto competes in national Bird Dog Circuit and United Field Trialer Association tournaments and is working towards his senior hunt test title. This post-hunt photo was taken near Miller, South Dakota.

Have your own bird dog photo you’d like to share? Email it to Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor, at ahauck@pheasantsforever.org.

South Dakota Pheasant Habitat Work Group Members Selected

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

Flickr Creative Commons photo

South Dakota is examining ways to maintain and enhance existing pheasant habitat as well as increase pheasant habitat in South Dakota. Flickr Creative Commons photo

South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard announced the members of a work group tasked with examining strategies for developing pheasant habitat in South Dakota. The group includes Tim Kessler of Aberdeen, who serves on Pheasants Forever’s Board of Directors, and is a former South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) Commission chair.

The pheasant habitat work group continues the efforts Gov. Daugaard began last month with the first ever Governor’s Pheasant Habitat Summit in Huron.

Coming off the successful Pheasant Habitat Summit, the biggest question was “What’s next?” Pheasants Forever applauds Governor Daugaard for continuing the momentum of the summit and the state’s aggressive efforts to examine upland habitat solutions.

“Pheasant habitat and agriculture enjoy a symbiotic relationship in South Dakota,” Gov. Daugaard said. “The work group will look for practical ways we can solidify our status as the world’s greatest pheasant hunting destination while supporting agriculture – our number one industry.”

The thirteen pheasant habitat work group members are:

  • Pam Roberts, Pierre (Chair) – retired Secretary of SD Department of Labor and Regulation
  • Barry Dunn, Brookings – dean, College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences at SDSU
  • Tim Kessler, Aberdeen – Pheasants Forever Board of Directors, former GFP Commission chair
  • Mary Duvall, Pierre – District 24 state representative
  • Jason Frerichs, Wilmot – farmer, Senate Minority Leader, District 1 state senator
  • John Cooper, Pierre – GFP commissioner, former GFP Secretary
  • Steve Halverson, Kennebec – farmer, owner of Halverson Hunts
  • Jan Nicolay, Chester – former state representative, conservation advocate
  • Jeff Zimprich, Huron – USDA-NRCS state director
  • Doug Deiter, Faulkton – farmer
  • Jeff Vonk, Pierre – GFP Secretary
  • Lucas Lentsch, Pierre – SD Secretary of Agriculture
  • Nathan Sanderson, Pierre – Governor’s policy advisor for agriculture and GFP

The pheasant habitat work group will develop recommendations to the Governor that focus on practical solutions for maintaining and improving pheasant habitat. The work group will meet periodically through June, with a final report completed in late summer 2014.

Members of the public may submit ideas for encouraging pheasant habitat development to pheasanthabitat@state.sd.us. All submissions will be considered by the work group.

Related:

PF Applauds Gov. Daugaard for Successful Pheasant Habitat Summit

INFOGRAPHIC: Pheasant Hunting in South Dakota

Monday, December 30th, 2013

Pheasants and upland habitat are part of South Dakota’s identity. At the recent Governor’s Pheasant Habitat Summit, the rapid loss of the habitat that sustains the state’s legendary pheasant population took center stage. Here are the pheasant facts for South Dakota:

SDinfo

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.