|  10/25/2012

Opening Weekend Pheasant Hunting Report: South Dakota

Pheasants Forever supporter Tim Rausch and his hunting party found much success on South Dakota’s 2012 pheasant hunting opening weekend. Submitted Photo

With pheasant numbers having rebounded 18 percent in “The Pheasant Capital,” South Dakota is expecting more than 100,000 nonresident pheasant hunters this pheasant hunting season. Following a weekend reserved exclusively for resident hunting on public lands, the general season has opened. Hunters are, of course, finding roosters, but also a landscape that has radically changed due to an ongoing drought (and emergency haying and grazing as a result) and continued habitat loss. Here’s a compilation of hunting reports from Pheasants Forever biologists stationed in South Dakota.
I was able to participate in the much anticipated “Opener” at the family farm south of Aberdeen, where three generations of my family were able to hunt together.  Results exceeded our expectations, after the abnormally hot and dry summer. The ag harvest is over in that part of the state, and birds can be found in any type of birdy cover, including sloughs, shelterbelts, and any other weedy cover offering some sort of visual protection. Especially productive were un-hayed areas of CRP grass cover.  We were able to “limit” each day, and still have time enough left in the day to clean birds, and  get to a deer blind with my sons, (twin 10-year- olds)  in an attempt to harvest their 1st S.D. mentor hunt-antlerless deer.  Also, the waterfowl currently utilizing the area is very impressive.  It is really a great time year!  Quality habitat sure does make for some priceless memories…Upon returning to Chamberlain, I have visited with several area landowners that hosted opening day hunts on their farms, in South Central S.D.  Reports are varied, but the consensus is the numbers of birds seen was slightly less than last year. Where there is high quality habitat, and somewhat limited hunting pressure, there are good numbers of birds. Limits of birds were still very common.  It will be interesting to see what things will be like in several weeks, after we see some colder weather, and they begin to bunch up a bit.  Should be fun!
-          Jim Ristau, Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist – Chamberlain, South Dakota
Starting to hear from people around the area and the overall theme is that if you are in an area that has habitat, you are going to shoot birds…Hearing of lots of limits, but guys that are in areas with lots of tiling and grass conversion are not seeing anything.  It doesn’t seem to matter if you are in the Watertown, Aberdeen, Huron or Mitchell area it is the same: If you have grass you have birds, if you don’t, you don’t. 
-          Matt Morlock, Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist II, Pheasants Forever – Volga, South Dakota
The only consistent report I have been hearing is that people are bagging lots of old birds and not seeing /harvesting many young-of-the year.
-          Mike Blaalid, Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist, Pheasants Forever – Mitchell, South Dakota
Have you been pheasant hunting in South Dakota this year? If so, post your own report in the comments section below. 
Anthony’s Antics Afield is written by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.