Posts Tagged ‘South Dakota Pheasants Forever’

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.

PF Sets Up Shop in South Dakota with New Regional HQ

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014


Last month, Pheasants Forever announced plans to open a regional headquarters in South Dakota. Today, we’re proud to announce we’ve got a new address at the South Dakota Innovation Center located in the Research Park at South Dakota State University (SDSU).

Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever’s long-time Vice President of Government Affairs, has moved to Brookings, South Dakota and is excited about the Innovation Center. “When you think about opening up a brand new office, things like copy machines and coffee makers aren’t items at the forefront of your mind. In the Innovation Center, we’ve found the perfect setting for meetings with our partners and an environment conducive to our success. This facility has all the amenities necessary to get our operations off the ground in a hurry, so Pheasants Forever can stay focused on the real problem of turning the tide for habitat,” explained Nomsen.

“The Growth Partnership is excited to provide the space to facilitate collaboration between Pheasants Forever, SDSU, the region and the state of South Dakota,” said Dwaine Chapel, Executive Director of the Innovation Center. “Pheasants Forever will provide enhanced opportunity to connect with campus research associated with biosciences. Research partnerships provide solid connectivity between faculty while providing intern and career opportunities to students. The Research Park concept is designed to encourage these relationships. It is great to be a part of the first regional headquarters for Pheasants Forever.”

Contact Pheasants Forever’s South Dakota Regional Office:
2301 Research Park Way
Suite 152
Brookings, SD 57006

Dave Nomsen
(605) 864-8138

Field Notes are compiled by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s online editor. Email Anthony at and 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.

Midseason Pheasant Hunting Report: South Dakota

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

CREP walk-in hunting areas in eastern South Dakota have provided some of the best available public pheasant hunting opportunities in 2012, but as the smoke in the background indicates, not all habitat has made it through this autumn standing. Photo by Anthony Hauck / Pheasants Forever

The calendar has turned to December, and that means just five weekends left in South Dakota’s pheasant hunting season. Overall hunting success appears to be spotty due to the effects of the ongoing drought. Many public and private areas of grass were hayed to help livestock producers in this tough year, and the quality of other grass stands is lacking. More alarming, as detailed in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, is the looming crisis in pheasant country, as the dry conditions have allowed the appetite for corn to reach new levels, resulting in the burning and dismantling of an unquantifiable number of wetlands, cattails draws, fence lines, shelterbelts and groves.

Here with on-the-ground hunting and habitat reports are Pheasants Forever staff members in South Dakota:

My family was able to spend the Thanksgiving Holiday with my In-Law’s, who farm in north-central S.D. I can think of no better way to spend “Black Friday” than to grab a dog and shotgun and go pheasant hunting! Joining me was my son, Zach, and my brother-in-law, Jeff, from Mitchell. Habitat conditions were quite a bit different than past years’ hunts, due to the drying up of wetlands, and with that, the desire to farm these areas.  However, we found the remaining habitat like shelterbelts, fence lines, and even harvested crop stubble (wheat) to be productive. From other reports I’m hearing, there seems to be a solid number of hens in all areas of the state, which is very encouraging.  So even in areas where bird numbers have not been as strong as last year, the potential for a solid rebound next spring is there. Hopefully, those hens will be able to find a quality place to nest. CRP anyone? Come on Washington, let’s have a Farm Bill!

-          Jim Ristau, Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist – Chamberlain, S.D.


PF Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist Jim Ristau found this midseason rooster at a public tract near Chamberlain.

I’ve heard mixed reports, but the overall consensus has been fairly tough hunting. In my experience, in the field where there is habitat, the birds will be found.  Much of my successes have been in cattails – long days for a bird or two.  And with the weather being as fair, birds have been wild and not holding for a young pointer.


-          Mike Stephenson, Pheasants Forever South Dakota Regional Representative – Emery, S.D.


Pheasant hunting has been a little slow in much of the state, the birds are bunched up and pretty wild. If you are in for a challenge, this is the year. You need to hunt quiet and fast, especially on public ground. I would head for the “off the beaten path” spots along the Missouri and out west for the best results. This is a different style of a hunt, as you’re not walking food plots and tall grass; rather you are going to be targeting woody draws and more linear cover.  On a more positive side, the reports on the grouse hunting have been excellent this year!

-          Matt Morlock, Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist II – Volga, S.D



Hunting in northeast South Dakota has been pretty hit and miss. Some of our best success has come out of hunting new Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) walk-in areas with quality grass right before sundown. We’ve been seeing good numbers of birds, but due to milder weather and no snow, they are busting out early and are tough to keep in gunning range.  Although it’s been difficult hunting, I think we should consider ourselves fortunate this year.  The rate of grass conversion and the amount of cattail sloughs being burned is jaw dropping. It will be difficult to say what the bird numbers will look like next year with the significant loss of habitat taking place this fall. 

-          Ben Lardy, Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Biologist – Webster, S.D.


In Sanborn and Jerauld Counties, most guys have been shooting a bird or two per day. I talked to a group of guys that was hunting last weekend on public and private ground south of Mitchell, and they saw plenty of birds.

-          Scott Groepper, Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist – Woonsocket, S.D.


Have you been pheasant hunting in South Dakota this year? If so, post your own report in the comments section below.


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

This Shorthair Named Himself

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

Some bird dogs end up in our lives the result of months, even years of planning, with research, time, money and travel all invested into the process. And some bird dogs end up in our lives because of this little thing called “impulse,” when right time meets right place and a pair of eyes and a helpless looking face runs a straight line to the heart, conscience be darned.

Pheasants Forever’s Mike Stephenson and his German shorthaired pointer, “Chance.”

He was born July 8th, 2011. His mother struggled through the birthing process, which included a C-section, and passed away during labor, along with seven of the nine puppies she carried. Two male German shorthaired pointer pups clung to life, and the owners of the late mother did not know how to keep them alive.

As chance would have it, a lady who raises boxers had a litter delivered the same day. When she heard about the two orphaned GSP pups, she and her boxer adopted them, weaned them and nurtured them to health.

Word spread in the community, and one of the pups was claimed. But a few more weeks went by, and one lone pup remained, a hunter-to-be just needing a chance.

Having just moved to Emery, South Dakota, as Pheasants Forever’s new regional representative, 23-year-old Mike Stephenson had a bird dog in his future plans, but wasn’t seriously considering getting a pup just yet. Still, when a Pheasants Forever chapter member told him about the little pointer, Stephenson decided to have a look.

“It seemed like I had to take the ‘Chance’ at this four-legged pup who sat patiently staring at me with those irresistible puppy eyes,” Stephenson said. Soon, there was company in the cab as Stephenson drove around South Dakota to Pheasants Forever chapter meetings and banquets.

“Chance” made his first point and retrieve at just three-months-old. “’He’s been a great companion and my best friend,” Stephenson says, “As much as I don’t want to say this – as I’m young – he’s probably the dog of my lifetime.”

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

South Dakota PF Chapters Contribute to 600 Acres of New Public Hunting Land

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

The newly acquired parcel, outlined in red, is adjacent to an existing Waterfowl Production Area, with two other publicly accessible areas also in the immediate area.

How, exactly, does South Dakota sustain its incredible ringneck population? The short answer is with the help of conservation groups like the Grant County and Clear Lake Pheasants Forever chapters. Recently, the two chapters, along with multiple partners, helped purchase 600 acres of prime upland habitat with the intention of turning it over for public access.

The former owner of the property sold the land for an under appraised value, and did not put the land up for public auction. On board with Pheasants Forever’s wildlife habitat mission, the seller wanted the land he cherished and opened for others to enjoy. Located in Grant County east of 367th Ave, this property will be open to the public for hunting and other outdoor recreational activities as a new state Game Production Area (GPA).

Each local Pheasants Forever chapter contributed $5,000 to the land acquisition, monies raised at their respective Pheasants Forever banquets. “This project is a great example of what Pheasants Forever can accomplish with local chapters working together,” said Mike Stephenson, Pheasants Forever’s South Dakota Regional Representative, “This land will be open for the public to use forever and the project leaves a legacy that will connect with future South Dakota hunters and Pheasants Forever members.”

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