Pheasant numbers for the beginning of the 2011 South Dakota Pheasant Season are down from the historic levels of 2009 and 2010, but that didn’t deter hunters from across the state and country from chasing the colorful state bird according to Game, Fish and Parks Department field staff.

“Our pheasant numbers are down from near-record highs, but I expect we will still harvest well over a million birds this season,” said GFP Communications Director Chuck Schlueter. “We’ve averaged around 160,000 pheasant hunters the past half dozen years. With determination and some help from the weather, there will be some very good hunts.”

For the most part, blue skies, perfect temperatures and harvested crops in many areas, assisted hunters across the state.

Scott Lingren, GFP Game Manager for Northeastern South Dakota said “Hunters in the western part of the region (Faulk, Edmunds, McPherson, Brown and Spink counties) averaged 2 birds per hunter. As you moved east in the region it dropped below 1 bird per hunter. All Conservation Officers reported hunter numbers down significantly in this region. Attitudes of most hunters were pretty good and some reported more birds than they expected. Only one accident in the region, a hunter was resting the barrel on his foot and the gun went off. Hunters reported finding birds in CRP next to harvested crops and also hunting standing corn and sorghum. One officer drove 80 miles in Hamlin County and only saw one hunter. He went and checked fishermen on Poinsett and found 75 boats on the lake. The weather was ideal in the southern and eastern part of the region, but the northwest part of the region experienced some rain the last 3 hours of the day.”

Ron Schauer, GFP Game Manager for South Eastern South Dakota said “Pheasant hunters in southeastern SD had an excellent day to be out in the field on the opening day of pheasant season. Hunter success was down a little from the past few years, but that was expected by most hunters because of this years forcast. Hunter success ranged from 1/2 a bird per hunter to a high of 1.5-2 birds per hunter. The best success was reported in Beadle, Aurora and McCook Counties. Crop harvest may have also been a factor when it came to success as only about 25-35% of the corn has been harvested throughout the region. Most officers reported seeing fewer hunters this year but the hunters were, for the most part pleased with the hunting and the conditions. Two accidents were reported, one near White Lake in Aurora County and the other in Beadle County.”

Nathan Baker, GFP Game Manager for Central South Dakota said “Fields were filled with hunters, and in spite of the lower pheasant forecast hunters were pleasantly surprised by the number of pheasants in the area. Overall, hunter numbers were slightly down, but many experienced great success walking CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) fields and food plots. Many hunters in the area also reported seeing numerous young pheasants while afield. Weather conditions were excellent for this year’s pheasant opener, which made for an exceptional day in the field. With the favorable weather, crop harvest is in full swing, and hunters are likely to see continued success throughout the season in central South Dakota.”

No accidents were reported in the area, and there were very few violations issued.

“Opening day is all about tradition, spending time with family and friends, and enjoying South Dakota’s outdoors. Pheasant hunting adds a lot to the quality of life we have here. I hope everyone has a chance to get out and enjoy a day in the field”, said Baker.

For more information on pheasant hunting in South Dakota visit: http://gfp.sd.gov/hunting/small-game/pheasants.aspx

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