Thursday, October 29, 2015

Opening of South Dakota Traditional Pheasant Hunting Season Brings Traditions, Mixed Success

The Common Pheasant, the most important bird f...

PIERRE, S.D. – South Dakota’s “army of orange” was out in full force for the opening day of pheasant season.  With the annual pheasant brood survey up 42 percent from 2014, friends and family shared plenty of pheasants, fun and fellowship.
“The traditions of South Dakota’s opening day of pheasant season are known worldwide,” said South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Secretary Kelly Hepler.  “It’s one of the reasons I came back to the state.  The comradery, the laughter, the food and the chance to chase the wily ringneck with lifelong and even new friends is a special occasion.  It is really second to none.”
According to GFP’s survey, traditional pheasant hunting areas such as Winner, Pierre, Mobridge and Mitchell all showed at least 40 percent increases in the pheasants-per-mile index.  Other popular pheasant destinations such as Chamberlain and Huron had well over 30 percent increases.  All areas evaluated in the brood report showed a minimum of a 17 percent increase.
Reports from the fields across the state indicate the following:
  • Central S.D., Nathan Baker, GFP regional game manager
        o   Average bird count per hunter ranged from 1 bird in most of the region, to 1.5-2                      birds in Lyman and Hughes Counties.
        o   Most popular area to hunt in region: Hunters were walking standing cornfields,                      grass, food plots, and some cattail sloughs and having success.  There is still quite a                bit of standing corn and sunflowers across the region, and harvest is in full swing.
  • Northeast S.D., Jacqui Ermer, GFP regional game manager
        o   Average bird count per hunter was less than one bird in the east and  1.5-2 birds in                  Edmunds and Faulk Counties.
        o   Most popular area to hunt in region: Public lands in the western parts of the region                  were good.  Hunters were walking sloughs, food plots and grass.
  • Southeast S.D., Josh Elger, GFP regional game manager
        o   Average bird count per hunter ranged from .5 to 1.5 going from east to west, with                  Beadle, Aurora and Jerauld Counties being the best.
        o   Most popular area to hunt in the region: Many crops are still in the field in eastern                  South Dakota.  Hunters were finding success in grass and sloughs.
        o   Hunting pressure was light in many areas.
  • Western S.D., John Kanta, GFP regional game manager
        o   Average bird count per person ranged from .5 to 1 bird across the region. A few                      reports of hunters limiting in the far northwestern part of the state as well.
        o   Most popular area to hunt in region: Hunters were finding birds in tree belts, food                  plots/crops, sloughs and grass. 
  • Statewide Hunting Incidents
        o   There were two hunting incidents to report on at the time of this release.  A young                  hunter in the southeastern part of the state fell while chasing a wounded bird.  The                  gun discharged when they went to pick it up, injuring a hand.  A hunter in Faulk                      County was struck in the face with pellets, receiving minor injuries. 
“We are pleased to see production was up for the second year in a row, however sustaining pheasant numbers and the S.D. hunting tradition will require long-term habitat efforts,” Hepler said.  “We are hopeful that the new Habitat Pays program will make it easier for landowners to find the programs and information they need to provide more quality habitat across the state.  Working with the Deptartment of Agriculture, the Governor’s Pheasant Habitat Workgroup, landowners and partnering organizations, I believe the future of pheasants and pheasant hunting is strong. Across this state, people look forward to and depend upon pheasant season for our livelihood and our quality of life.”
South Dakota’s traditional statewide pheasant hunting season began today and runs through Jan. 3, 2016. If individuals have yet to purchase their hunting license, they can do so online or at any local licensing agent. For more information, please visit
See what memories are already being made by visiting our #SDintheField page. Hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts are encouraged to share their photos and videos with us using #SDintheField and take part in the tradition; not only in the field, but in the online conversations as well.