Annual August pheasant brood counts in South Dakota indicate that the statewide pheasant population is up from last year, and that should equate to an excellent pheasant season that starts next Saturday.

Results of the survey show that pheasant numbers grew in many areas of the state, due in large part to a mild winter and ideal weather during the nesting and brood-rearing season.

"The mild winter of 2011-12 was the boost we needed for pheasant survival and reproductive potential," explained Jeff Vonk, secretary of the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks. "It goes to show that, with the combination of good habitat and the right weather conditions, pheasants can be quite prolific.

Wildlife Terrestrial Chief Tom Kirschenmann said weather conditions
the previous two years impacted numbers, "when you have two hard winters like we had for a few years, it does take a toll. If the winters don't kill them the condition of the birds when spring arrives is awfully poor. The hens in particular are not that productive after tough winters.

A reduction in Conservation Reserve acreages cut into habitat. It can be a farm management decision based on current commodity prices and the opportunity to farm that land again or those acres simply didn't qualify at re-enrollment.

August brood counts show increased populations in several East
River locations including the Huron, Mitchell, Aberdeen, Brookings and Sioux Falls areas, "a much more mild and open winter last year led to the conditions to be more productive," Kirschenmann said.

He added some traditional hot spots stayed about the same. Pierre, Chamberlain, down to Winner. That still means there will be phenomenal pheasant hunting.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard said the pheasant survey is good news for the state.

"Pheasant hunting is important to the economic well-being of South Dakota, and it also helps support the strong outdoor heritage of our state," the Governor said.

Kirschenmann says hunters need to keep track of where steel shot is required, and be careful not to ignite fires.

Pheasant Season Information

Season Dates: Oct. 20, 2012 - Jan. 6, 2013

Open Area: All of South Dakota except the following:

  • Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Brown County, Renziehausen Game Production Area and Game Bird Refuge in Brown and Marshall Counties, Gerken Game Bird Refuge in Faulk County and White Lake Game Bird Refuge in Marshall County are open Dec. 10-Jan. 6

Daily Limit: 3 rooster pheasants

Possession Limit: 15 rooster pheasants, taken according to the daily limit. The limit accrues at the rate of 3 birds a day, and 15 birds may not be possessed until after the fifth day of hunting.

Shooting Hours: 12 Noon, Central Time, to sunset Oct. 20-26; 10 a.m., Central Time, to sunset the rest of the season. NOTE: Central Time is used for opening shooting hours statewide.

Future Opening Dates: The pheasant season traditionally opens on the third Saturday in October.