Centennial Pheasant Hunting Season in South Dakota Marked by 47% Increase in Pheasants Per Mile
South Dakota’s 100th centennial pheasant hunting season brings great news for outdoor enthusiasts: a 47 percent increase in pheasants-per-mile, according to the Game, Fish and Parks annual statewide brood survey. The department attributes the increase to advantageous weather conditions that allowed for a 22 percent increase in pheasant brood size over last year, and to the successful preservation of the birds’ habitat.
The yearly study does not directly measure population, but observes the number of pheasants seen from late July to mid-August on 110 different routes of 30 miles each. This results in a pheasants-per-mile index, which rose from 1.68 in 2017 to 2.47 in 2018. The trend was particularly marked in the far eastern part of the state, although 85 of the routes showed increases.
South Dakota boasts 1.1 million acres of public hunting land, more than 45,000 of which were added in the last two years thanks to the Walk-In Area program. Through the program, the state leases private land and opens it to public hunting, which has resulted in an economic boost for South Dakota over the past decade.
Officials who oversaw the survey noted that undisturbed CRP fields should provide more opportunities during the upcoming pheasant hunting season, which begins on October 20 and allows for a daily limit of three rooster pheasants. Last year, a drought led the state to authorize emergency haying and grazing, reducing pheasant-friendly undergrowth across hunting lands.