Bountiful pheasant population awaits hunters

Bountiful pheasant population awaits hunters
South Dakota's biggest hunting season kicked off with a pheasant population largely unchecked by the lingering effects of drought.

Brood surveys showed that this year's pheasant population averaged just 6 percent smaller than the 2005 pheasant population that was the biggest in 40 years.

"The ability of South Dakota's pheasant population to withstand such a prolonged drought points to the importance of the Conservation Reserve Program in providing wildlife habitat," said Game, Fish and Parks Department Secretary John Cooper. "As hunters are enjoying this bounty they should keep in mind that much of this good habitat could disappear if CRP isn't part of the next Farm Bill."

Another important ingredient in a successful hunt is landowners who are willing to allow hunting on their land. "As hard as we work in Game, Fish and Parks to provide more land for public access, we'll still always be thankful for private landowners who open their land to hunting," Cooper said, noting that hunters should always ask permission before hunting on private land.

"Once you're in the field, make sure you have a safe hunt," advised GFP Wildlife Division Director Doug Hansen. "Fluorescent orange clothing isn't required for small game hunting, but it only makes sense to do all that you can to help other hunters identify you in the field."

Hunters can also minimize the potential for accidents by keeping track of where their hunting companions are located when they're out in the field. An unfortunate but common pheasant-hunting accident involves hunters who swing on a bird and shoot without noticing other hunters in the line of fire.

Another safety feature road hunters should remember is the 660-foot safety zone that must be honored near schools, churches, occupied dwellings and livestock.

"If hunters keep safety in mind and obey regulations," Hansen said, "this should be a great hunting season for everyone."

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