Months of persistent drought in 2012, a cold, wet spring in 2013 and a reduction in habitat have impacted pheasant brood counts, according to a report released today by the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department. But officials note that South Dakota will still offer the best pheasant hunting experience in the country, with more than 1.1 million acres of public land available for pursuing birds within the state’s main pheasant range. The department’s annual brood count surveys the number of pheasants per mile as a means to track pheasant numbers over time. The actual population size is estimated after the pheasant hunting season ends, with additional information gathered from hunter surveys and a winter rooster-to-hen ratio survey. The 2013 report indicates an index of 1.52 pheasants per mile, down from 4.19 pheasants per mile last year. “The annual brood count provides us with a year-over-year analysis tool,” said Travis Runia, GFP’s lead pheasant biologist. “Our numbers may be down from last year, but hunters will still be able to find birds.” GFP conducts the brood route survey each year on select stretches of roads around the state. All pheasants are counted along each route, with particular attention to the number of broods. “Much of the northern Great Plains experienced the same weather and habitat factors that impacted our brood counts,” Runia said. Runia noted that lower brood counts in 1992 and 1997 still resulted in almost one million pheasants harvested in South Dakota each year. Since 1992, the state has added 350,000 acres of public access within the main pheasant range, expanding hunting opportunities.
The 2013 pheasant season opens Oct. 19 and runs through Jan. 5, 2014. The Youth Pheasant season will run from Oct. 5 – 9 and the Resident Only season Oct. 12 – 14.