South Dakota’s pheasant hunting season wraps up on quiet note

Kelda Pharris
Farm Forum

Despite lower bird counts, the 2017 pheasant season was still fun, according to personnel at the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department.

“I still have to get out and make the dog happy; had to work a little harder, but it was an enjoyable season,” Travis Runia, GFP’s senior upland game biologist said.

With a late corn harvest, hunters had a little difficulty navigating the fields at the beginning of the season. That was followed by a very mild autumn for hunting, Nick Cochran, Brown County conservation officer, said by phone Sunday.

Nonresident licenses were down about 18 percent from last year’s count of about 85,400, Runia said.

There were also fewer repeat nonresident hunters, Cochran said.

“Overall, we saw less hunters than we normally do just because the population numbers being down,” he said.

The causes for the lower number of pheasants were blamed on a hot and dry brood season, a severe drought during much of the summer, and a 10-year trend of declining acreage in habitat.

There’s been a 35 percent loss of Conservation Reserve Program habitat in the past decade, Runia said. He noted that there’s also been a declining cap in the government program that offers subsidies to landowners who set aside uncultivated land. This land is the prime habitat for brooding pheasants and other wildlife.

On a related note, no significant injuries were reported in Brown County this season. There were a couple minor injuries reported in Spink County, with pellets hitting one person in the shoulder and another in a cheek in two separate incidences. Reports of road hunting were also down, Cochran said.

“Overall, it’s been a good year, no major issues at all. We run into a few things like trespassing, where people were looking for a downed bird and got on someone’s land. There were a few lead violations,” Cochran said.

“Other than that, (hunters) were just out having fun. A lot of guys from Minnesota and Iowa still come to our state because we still have better bird populations than east of us,” Cochran said.

The 2017 season closed last Sunday. The 2018 season, which will be South Dakota’s 100th pheasant season, opens Oct. 20.