Not many rosy preseason pheasant reports were coming out of South Dakota, but recent weeks brought news of late hatch sightings across portions of the state. How did hunters fare on opening weekend in the nation’s number one pheasant hunting state?
Hunter: Matt Morlock, Pheasants Forever Field Team Data Analyst
Area Hunted: Between Mitchell and Huron
The hunting was definitely better than we expected it to be. It was a good thing we were hunting with a few biologists in the group, because there were a ton of immature birds that were VERY difficult to identify. In fact we had several that were so small – >6 weeks – that we couldn’t ID them. We talked to several other groups and the reports were the same. A few limits but for the most part it was about a 1.5 birds-per-hunter average.
Hunters: Mike Blaalid, Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist, Mitchell; Ben Lardy, Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist, Webster
We’ve talked to more than 100 pheasant hunters in central South Dakota as we’ve attended landowner meetings and local Pheasants Forever banquets from Wessington Springs to Eureka to Mobridge. On top of lower pheasant populations, hunting has been difficult since harvest has been delayed due to wet conditions. Lots of birds are hanging out in the corn and sunflowers. If there is a silver lining, it’s that the lack of success early on should stockpile some birds for late season hunting. We are also seeing a lot of young birds. This wet weather has also prevented the burning/mowing of cattail sloughs, so we should have more quality winter cover in the area compared to last year.
Hunter: Scott Groepper, Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist, Pheasants Forever, Woonsocket
Area Hunted: Jerauld County
I talked with a bunch of hunters on Sunday evening and Monday morning that were hunting around Wessington Springs. My estimate is they averaged 1.5 to 2 birds per hunter, per day. Everyone said they had to walk more than last year. One thing to note though, I’d say corn harvest is only around 50 percent complete. If all the corn was out guys may have had better luck. The weather wasn’t the best either, it was pretty windy. We’ve had a lot of grass broke up over the past couple of years, probably two-thirds or more of it expiring Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acreage, and a lot of hunters noticed that too. The grass that’s out there, for the most part, is in really good shape. We had a wet spring and a lot of that CRP that was emergency hayed last year really took off.
Anthony’s Antics Afield is written by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.organd follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.