Sunny skies, most crops harvested and increased bird numbers made an enjoyable experience for a majority of opening-day pheasant hunters in South Dakota.

A long, dry summer has sped the harvest of corn and soybean crops, where many early season pheasants seek refuge. This year, the birds had to resort to sloughs, grassy patches and shelterbelts, making them easier to find in many areas of the state.

“Hunter numbers seemed to be down in central South Dakota,” said Region 2 Game Manager Nathan Baker.

“Hunter success was about 1.5 birds per hunter, but seemed to be higher than that in Campbell Woolworth and Potter Counties.”

“Hunters were in great spirits, and seemed to understand with reduced habitat due to the drought, and if they found a few birds, they found alot,” said Baker.

There were two known hunting accidents in the area, both hunters being struck by pellets. Neither hunter was seriously injured.In the northeastern part of the state, hunters found birds in a mixed bag of areas.

“People were hunting shelterbelts and cattail sloughs as well as in the grass,” said Region 1 Game Manager Jacqui Ermer.

“The CREP areas in Marshall County were extremely busy,” she said.

Ermer thought that hunters were averaging a bird a piece, but were seeing a good number of birds.

“Hunters in Faulk McPhereson and Edmunds Counties were having a little more success, with about 2 birds each,” she said.

Early week rains were a blessing as they reduced fire dangers in the area and hunters were glad to see it, Ermer said.

In southeastern SD, GFP Regional Game Manager Ron Schauer reported happy hunters.

“All the groups I talked to were in good moods,” Schauer said.

He reported that most groups had between 1/2 a bird to 2 birds per hunter. “Keep in mind most of our groups seem to shoot a lot of birds in the last hour of the day.”

Schauer reported that most of the groups that found unharvested or stripped corn fields were doing very well and that hunters in Beadle, Jerauld, Sanborn and Davison Counties were finding more birds.

“We also havent had any accidents today, which is excellent. Opening weekend groups seem to really enjoy the tradition and camraderie that goes along with the day.”

“Our August roadside brood surveys indicated that bird numbers are up from last year in many parts of the state,” said Tom Kirschenmann, terrestrial chief in the state Game, Fish and Parks Department. “The combination of higher pheasant numbers, good weather conditions, and a crop harvest nearing completion led to a great opening day.“

The lack of rain across much of South Dakota did come into play, said Kirschenmann. “This year’s drought has reduced the amount of cover available for pheasants. Birds concentrated in those areas of quality cover and hunters had success finding birds there.”

For a majority of South Dakotans and guests, opening day ranks right up there with a holiday like Christmas.

“Opening day traditions are a big part of why we hunt pheasants in South Dakota,” Kirshenmann said. “Spending time with old friends, introducing the sport to new hunters, returning to the places where we have hunted for years – those are the reasons why we are drawn to the fields year after year.”

Logo courtesy South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks

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