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Will South Dakota Pheasant Numbers Drop This Year?

PF Farm Bill Biologist Matt Morlock says that the wet conditions in parts of SD have created an environment of protein-rich bugs in the damp grass, good news for pheasant broods. Pheasants Forever File Photo

Pheasant hunters are anxiously waiting for the results from South Dakota’s annual pheasant brood survey count, which is being conducted this month. Last season’s tough winter, followed up by a wet spring and summer, has some wondering if pheasant numbers in the state will drop.

“Conditions certainly haven’t been ideal,” Travis Runia, South Dakota’s chief upland game biologist with the Game, Fish and Parks, told John Pollmann, a freelance writer who covers outdoors issues for the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, in his article this week, Cold winter, heavy rains could hurt pheasant count. And while some areas in South Dakota will undoubtedly be leaner than others due to the effects of the wet weather, it hasn’t all been bad news. In fact, while South Dakota could see a slight overall decrease in numbers, certain areas are sure to have numbers hold steady or even increase. Here’s a snapshot of what South Dakota upland biologists reported:

Eastern South Dakota

“Parts of the state, particularly along the I-29 corridor, have lost good grass cover, and a lot of what remains are CRP acres that are of the wetland variety,” said Matt Morlock, Farm Bill Biologist with Pheasants Forever in east-central South Dakota. “On wet years like this, there’s not a lot of nesting habitat available around those wetland basins, so the larger the buffer of grass a landowner can leave around that area, the better.”

Central South Dakota

“When we’re in a drought cycle, especially in the central part of the state, there is a lot of pasture ground that isn’t of much value for nesting pheasants,” said Runia. “But with all of our moisture this year, those acres of grass look phenomenal and are going to provide excellent nesting cover.”

Northeast South Dakota

Conditions in this part of the state appear to be mimicking last year. Runia says that last summer Brown County was circled as an area that would likely see a big drop in pheasant numbers because of a brutal winter and wet spring. Instead, the county’s pheasant numbers held steady with strong nesting success in areas of good grass – habitat bolstered because of ample moisture.

The results of South Dakota’s pheasant brood survey will be included in Pheasants Forever’s 2011-2012 Pheasant Hunting Forecast sponsored this year by South Dakota Tourism. To receive the Pheasant Hunting Forecast via email, simply sign up for  On the Wing, Pheasants Forever’s monthly eNewsletter.

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


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2 Responses to “Will South Dakota Pheasant Numbers Drop This Year?”

  1. dave brea says:

    as soon as i get out there the numbers will drop

  2. uguide says:

    Great Report! I was out mowing CRP on my farm in south central South Dakota and was encouraged to see a fair amount of broods in the field and also more birds on the roads.

    I too will be interested in how the road surveys come out.


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