'Everyone was seeing birds' the first week of South Dakota's traditional pheasant season

Dominik Dausch
Farm Forum

The first week of South Dakota's traditional pheasant season is in the bag, and resident and out-of-state hunters alike had some good opportunities to get their shots in during the past seven days.

By all accounts, the first week of the pheasant opener "went extremely well," according to Nick Harrington, Communications Manager for South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks.

"Everyone was seeing birds. Everyone was getting their chances. Everyone was having a good time," Harrington said.

More: It’s pheasant hunting season in South Dakota: What you need to know

In the state's primary pheasant hunting range ‒ typically, an area that extends from central to eastern South Dakota, excluding the south- and northeast corners of the state ‒ Harrington said most pheasant hunters started their bird bagging at 10 a.m. Oct. 15. He added the weekend saw the most action, but the pheasant fields still saw a fair amount of use Monday through Wednesday.

Hunters stalk through a field in hopes of scaring up some pheasants near Mitchell on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022. Nick Harrington, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Communications Manager, said pheasant hunting conditions were fair to excellent in the state's primary hunting range.

Harrington also said weather conditions were mostly ideal through the first five days, but hunters did have to account for moderate winds.

"The biggest thing with missed shots is when the birds catch one of those wind drafts ‒ boom ‒ they just take off," Harrington added.

More: Ammo is on the shelf this year, but it may not be exactly what you’re looking for

South Dakota's 2022 Pheasant Opener Field Report also indicated some hunters experienced difficulties finding birds, because of drought conditions, "especially in the Winner and Webster areas as well as most of southeast South Dakota."

The adjacency of the pheasant and harvest seasons also made scoring ring-necks difficult. Harrington said some pheasant habitats are in close proximity to crop fields, which encourages the bird to linger where the food is plentiful and the hunters can't reach. The GFP Communications Manager added the ring-neck numbers should replenish as farmers start to wrap up the harvest.

Until then, however, Harrington warns hunters from road hunting, which he said was a notable offense this year and led to some citations. This also makes hunting dangerous, he added, for travelers and farmers alike.

"If folks saw a bird on those evenings, they'd park in the middle road, hop out and head into the field," Harrington said. "You have to remember you can't just leave your car in the road. The last thing we want is a farmer getting into harvest and a car is blocking them from getting [into a field]."

More: Risk of inaccurate pheasant numbers remains since end of South Dakota's brood survey

While the first week of the hunt is in the books, Harrington said he is expecting another influx of hunters to return around Thanksgiving, when the crop harvest is complete and snow on the ground can aid hunters in tracking down their game.

"We're just starting here, but there's a ton of time left. The last two years have been great for weather, so I hope Mother Nature will cooperate with us for the rest of the season," Harrington said. "I hope everybody comes out and has a great time and enjoys the best pheasant hunting in the country."