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South Dakota Pheasant Forecast Above 10-Year Average

August 31, 2009.

From the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission:

GFP counted an average of 6.32 pheasants per mile in 2009, the fourth highest statewide count in the past 45 years.  Although this year’s statewide index has decreased from last year, the 2009 statewide pheasant per mile count is 13 percent higher than the 10-year average.

In 2007 GFP reported the highest brood route survey count in over 40 years. The count went even higher in 2008 with a nine percent increase. Even though pheasant numbers remain strong, the 2009 survey reveals a 26 percent decrease from 2008.

“The pheasant brood route survey is the standard for gauging how the pheasant population is doing,” GFP Secretary Jeff Vonk said. “Our data represents a very good reflection of pheasant numbers in the areas we survey. While our pheasant population is down from 2008 record, the good news is there are still a lot of pheasants out there heading into the hunting season.”

“In the past 45 years only 2005, 2007 and 2008 have a higher pheasant per mile count then we found this year,” Vonk said

GFP surveys 110 routes of 30 miles each over a three week period from late July to mid August. Survey data is used to calculate a pheasants per mile index for these routes. GFP can then compare the number of pheasants within each local area on a year-to-year basis, and also against a 10-year average.

“Considering the tremendous pheasant populations we’ve had the past couple of years, I believe even with this decline South Dakota will continue to offer the premier pheasant hunting opportunity in the nation,” Vonk said. “For a historical perspective, we had a pheasant per mile count of 2.69 birds in 2002, yet hunters still harvested over 1.2 million roosters that year.”

According to Vonk, one key element that has sustained good pheasant populations over the past several years has been the quality habitat resulting from the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Federal cutbacks in the program have resulted in a loss of 24 percent of the CRP land in South Dakota over the past three years.

South Dakota’s regular pheasant season opens on Saturday, October 17 and runs through January 3. The statewide youth season is October 3 through October 7, and the resident-only season on public land runs October 10 through October 12.

The detailed 2009 Pheasant Brood Survey Report, complete with a look at pheasant counts in the different local areas around the state, can be found on the GFP Web site at:

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