Plentiful Pheasant Population Will Greet Hunters in South Dakota

No Gravatar

Plentiful Pheasant Population Will Greet Hunters in South DakotaPIERRE, S.D. — For pheasant hunters who were in the fields last year, 2008 may offer a sense of déjà vu as South Dakota once again boasts a near-record population of ringnecks.

Pheasant brood count surveys last year estimated a pheasant population that recalled the Soil Bank days of the 1950s and ’60s and this year’s brood counts estimated that the statewide population had grown by 9 percent.

“Once again good weather conditions and plentiful habitat have combined to help increase South Dakota’s pheasant population,” said Jeff Vonk, secretary of the S.D. Game, Fish and Parks Department. “It looks like this will be another great opportunity for hunters.”

Plentiful Pheasant Population Will Greet Hunters in South DakotaEven while the pheasant population in South Dakota is increasing, the habitat that’s so important to the birds and other wildlife is steadily decreasing. “We’re losing CRP acres at an alarming rate,” Vonk said. “Hunters who notice a change in the landscape because their favorite fields have been turned to cropland should take the time to visit with their lawmakers about making sure that conservation continues to be a key federal policy and financially attractive for landowners.”

In South Dakota, 123,000 acres in the Conservation Reserve Program were set to have their contracts expire on Oct. 1 and another 236,000 acres will expire next year. “Some of those contracts may be renewed,” Vonk said, “but we can’t expect to sustain this pheasant population without plenty of good habitat.”

A variety of public lands are open to hunting in South Dakota and landowners continue to play an important role in the success of the state’s pheasant season, as well as other hunting seasons. “The department works hard to secure lands for public hunting,” Vonk said, “but private landowners who open their land to hunting are always welcome and appreciated.” Permission from the landowner is needed before hunting on private land.

Just as weather and habitat are the keys to a good pheasant population, safety is a determining factor for a good hunt. GFP offers these safety reminders for hunters:

  • While it’s not required by South Dakota law, it just makes good sense for all upland bird hunters to wear at least one article of fluorescent orange clothing.
  • Keep track of hunting companions in the field. Many hunting accidents occur when a hunter doesn’t know who is in the line of fire.
  • Road hunters must keep in mind the 660-foot safety zone around schools, churches, occupied dwellings and livestock.

“Don’t let the excitement of the hunt get in the way of following the proper safety precautions or obeying the state’s hunting regulations,” Vonk said.

Plentiful Pheasant Population Will Greet Hunters in South DakotaSome of those regulations include:

Season dates: In most of South Dakota the season runs from Oct. 18 through Jan. 4, 2009. At the Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Brown County the season runs Dec. 8 through Dec. 31. At Lacreek National Wildlife Refuge in Bennett County the season runs Oct. 18 through Jan. 4, 2009. Hunters are required to check in at the refuge headquarter to get a free permit. At Renziehausen Game Production Area and Game Bird Refuge in Brown and Marshall counties, at Gerken Game Bird Refuge in Faulk County and at White Lake Game Bird Refuge in Marshall County the season is open from Dec. 8 through Jan. 4, 2009. At Sand Lake State Game Bird Refuge in Campbell County, the season is open Nov. 15 through Jan. 4, 2009.

Shooting hours: From Oct. 18 through Oct. 24 the shooting hours are noon Central Daylight Time to sunset. For the rest of the season, shooting hours are 10 a.m. Central Time to sunset. Central time is used statewide for opening shooting hours. Hunters should note that Daylight Savings Time ends on Nov. 2.

Daily/possession limits: The daily limit is three cock pheasants. The possession limit is 15 pheasants taken according to the daily limit. An individual hunter can possess no more than three pheasants on the Saturday of opening weekend and up to six on Sunday. To possess another hunter’s birds, a free transportation permit must be obtained from a GFP conservation officer. Arranging for this permit should be handled well in advance of opening day. Transportation permits are not issued as a means of allowing the daily/possession limits to be exceeded.

License/I.D. Hunters must possess, while hunting, a valid S.D. hunting license and the proper form of identification. That I.D. may be a valid state-issued driver’s license or a state-issued and expiration-dated identification card. Hunters under the age of 16 can carry their HuntSAFE card. An adult who is serving as a mentor for a young hunter in the state’s new Mentored Hunting Program must be properly licensed, unarmed and possess a HuntSAFE card.

Transporting birds: Pheasants and grouse must have either the head, fully feathered wing or foot attached while being transported. All other game birds must have either the head or a fully feathered wing attached.

Nontoxic shot: Most public lands in South Dakota require the use of nontoxic shot while hunting for pheasants except on U.S. Forest Service National Grasslands, areas administered by the Office of School and Public Lands or on GFP-leased property designated as Walk-In Areas.

Dogs: A hunter who brings a dog into the state must have the animal’s health certificate from their local veterinarian indicating that all shots are up to date and that the dog is disease-free. Hunters should also remember to bring along enough water for their dogs.

Restrictions on public lands and refuges: Hunters should review pages 48 and 49 of the GFP Hunting and Trapping Handbook to ensure that they are familiar with public lands restrictions and pages 55 through 57 to familiarize themselves with the rules involving state refuges.

These details and more can be found on the GFP Web site at and in the 2008 S.D. Hunting and Trapping Handbook which is available at GFP regional offices, from many retailers who sell hunting licenses and at the department Web site in PDF format.