OUR VOICE: We need to work on 2014 pheasant solutions

Farm Forum

In the past nine days, there has been a lot of talk about a few pheasants.

The state Game, Fish and Parks Department left many South Dakotans stunned with its recent declaration of a 64 percent decrease in its annual brood survey. Aberdeen’s count was down 55 percent.

Possible reasons:

— Drought turned severe in August a year ago and didn’t let up in many places until a cold and wet spring this year.

— There has been continued conversion of farm acres from conservation reserve to crops. That has meant less dense nesting cover and easier meals for predators.

— And in many places, there seems to be fewer insects this summer, such as crickets and caterpillars, that comprise young pheasants’ diets for the first month of life.

GFP reported a state average of just 1.52 pheasants per mile along the 108 highway routes, each 30 miles long, driven each morning July 25 through Aug. 15. The average last year at this time was 4.19 pheasants per mile.

Pheasant hunting season begins Oct. 12 for South Dakota residents. Opening day for out-of-state hunters is Oct. 19.

The season runs through Jan. 5.

That points to a lot of walking for hunters this fall. The low numbers also could lead more hunters to turn to paid preserves, where they have reasonable expectations of seeing raised pheasants.

Will the projections stop hunters from coming to South Dakota this season? In most cases, probably not.

Out-of-state hunters often seem to begin planning their next fall pheasant outing in our state on their trip home. One bleak bird forecast usually doesn’t seem enough for them to break their South Dakota routines.

What we as South Dakotans have to worry about is the coming years. How can we help the numbers bounce back?

In past years, it seems South Dakota’s pheasant economy gets shot out of the sky when there are low numbers for years strung together. It is important that South Dakota begins to work on improving our future numbers.

We can’t change the number of birds in our fields this fall.

Next fall, however, is a different story. And we are all eager to tell a different story in 2014 when it comes to our pheasant numbers.

— American News editorial board