Survey: Pheasant numbers up 42 percent
The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) has completed the annual pheasant brood survey and the results show a 42 percent increase in the statewide pheasants-per-mile (PPM) index from 2014.
The 2015 statewide PPM index of 3.80 is up from 2.68 last year and 1.52 in 2013. The statewide PPM index is similar to 2011 when hunters harvested 1.56 million roosters.
“The favorable winter and spring weather conditions for the second consecutive year contributed strongly to another large increase in pheasants-per-mile,” stated Kelly Hepler, GFP Secretary. “This year’s population index is more than double the 2013 level when hunters harvested just under one million pheasants. Although the index continues to lag behind the 10-year average due to the extremely high counts from 2005 through 2010, a second straight year of substantial gains in the index is great news for our hunting community.”
From late July through mid-August, GFP surveyed 109, thirty-mile routes across the state to estimate pheasant production and calculate the PPM index. The survey is not a population estimate, but rather compares the number of pheasants observed on the routes and establishes trend information. Survey routes are grouped into 13 areas, based on a local city, and the index value of each local city area is then compared to index values of the previous year and the 10-year average.
Survey results indicate that pheasant numbers will again be highest along the Missouri River corridor in the broad regions around Winner, Chamberlain, Pierre and Mobridge. Great pheasant abundance also exists in the James River Valley in the regions near Mitchell, Huron and Aberdeen. Fewer pheasants will be available farther east in the I-29 corridor, but ample opportunity for quality hunts still exist. Great populations of pheasants occur in western South Dakota where favorable habitat exists.
“Habitat continues to be at the forefront of the conversation and is a crucial factor in pheasant numbers,” stated Hepler. “Bird numbers are higher in parts of the state where quality habitat conditions still exist, primarily on grasslands including those enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program as well as fields of cereal crops such as winter wheat. We continue to work in cooperation with the Governor’s Habitat Work Group, landowners, partner organizations and agencies to provide an improved future for wildlife habitat in our state.”
Public hunting opportunities are abundant in South Dakota. Over 1 million acres of publicly owned and private land leased through GFP’s Walk-In Area Program and the James River Watershed Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program is available in the primary pheasant range of South Dakota. The 2015 public hunting atlas and a web-based interactive map of public lands and private lands leased for public hunting can be found online at http://gfp.sd.gov/hunting/areas.
“Each year, the results of this survey are highly anticipated by those with a strong interest in South Dakota’s hunting heritage. The availability of pheasants and pheasant hunting opportunities across the state this fall should serve to enhance that tradition,” concluded Hepler. Â
South Dakota’s traditional statewide pheasant hunting season opens on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015, and runs through Jan. 3, 2016.