By Joe Keeton
The weekend everyone has been waiting for is finally here. The 2009 pheasant season officially opens on Saturday. At 12 noon, Central Daylight Time, the first shots of the official pheasant season will start. With thousands of hunters taking to the field this weekend, following regulations and practicing safe hunting will become even more important than on typical weekends.
First, let us start with subject of safety. Pheasant hunting in South Dakota is the most dangerous type of hunting in the state. That is not to say it is the most deadly, but pheasant hunting does produce the majority of hunting accidents in South Dakota annually. Two factors play a major role in the high number of accidents produced by pheasant hunting. First, are the sheer numbers of people that are involved in pheasant hunting. Second, is the way most groups hunt pheasant. The majority of accidents that occur while pheasant hunting, occur when a hunter is swinging a bird. Often a hunter that is swinging on a bird loses sight of where his fellow hunters are, swings too far, and takes an unsafe shot.
The good news is most pheasant hunting accidents can be prevented with a few safety precautions. First, make yourself visible and use eye protection. This can be done by wearing fluorescent orange clothing, more is better, and purchasing a pair of shooting glasses. Second, take your time in the field and make sure you know where you and your fellow hunters are at all times. Also be sure to take blockers into account before taking shots if you are going to use them at the end of a field.Third, if you are going to road hunt, do it lawfully. Road hunting regulations are in place not only to make it fair, but to also make it safe. Last but not least, leave your celebrations for the end of the hunting trip. Open containers, driving under the influence, and possessing a firearm while intoxicated are all against the law and will not be tolerated.
As for regulations, I would highly recommend picking up and reviewing the 2009 South Dakota Hunting and Trapping Handbook. These books are full of information, free, and are available at all licensing agents. As stated above, the pheasant season starts this Saturday, Oct. 17. Shooting hours run from 12 noon (Central Standard Time) to sunset. The daily limit is three cock pheasants and the possession limit, which accrues at the rate of three birds a day, is 15 cock pheasants. Please remember to leave either a fully feathered head or wing, or foot attached to your birds while transporting them.
For those who like to road hunt I would suggest three things to simplify the road hunting regulations (which can be found on page 42 of the handbook). Before attempting to harvest a bird, pull your vehicle to the right hand side of the road, shut your vehicle motor off, and close all vehicle doors after exiting. Doing this regardless of distance from your vehicle will eliminate many issues and will make your hunt safer. Also please remember not to hunt within 660 feet of any occupied dwelling, livestock, school or church. Only pheasants that are in the road right-of-way may be hunted and birds that are shot and fall onto private ground may be retrieved only by an unarmed hunter.
Finally, be courteous, be smart, and be safe while you are out hunting this weekend. Remember that not everyone hunts and that the actions you make will reflect on all hunters as a whole. As always if you have questions or problems please contact me. My office number is 677-6950. If you witness a hunting violation please call the Turn In Poachers hotline at 1-888-OVERBAG (683-7224). Good luck and enjoy the weekend.
Joe Keeton is theClay & southern Union County Wildlife Conservation Officer for the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks
15 Washington St.
Vermillion, SD 57069
Office: (605) 677-6950