BROOKINGS, S.D. – The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks has completed the annual pheasant brood survey and the results show a 76 percent increase in the statewide pheasants-per-mile index as compared to 2013. While thrilled with the report, Pheasants Forever remains focused on working with state conservation policy leaders in charting a roadmap to enhance upland habitat in South Dakota for long-term sustainability of pheasant hunting traditions.
Dave Nomsen, who leads Pheasants Forever’s new regional headquarters in Brookings, S.D., says the positive brood report should excite pheasant hunters, but needs to be taken in context with the substantial upland habitat losses of recent years. “The ‘pheasant crisis’ South Dakota has experienced over the past few years has not been solved. While tough winters and wet springs play a role in population changes, it’s the loss of habitat that’s responsible for the long-term decline of pheasants in the state. And we haven’t yet replaced the 1.8 million acres of grasslands and prairies lost since 2006. Stabilizing South Dakota’s pheasant habitat base will help increase pheasant numbers over the long term.”
“Habitat is at the forefront of the conversation right now and is a crucial factor in pheasant numbers,” stated South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Secretary Jeff Vonk, “Bird numbers are higher this year due to excellent reproduction 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 Pheasant Habitat Work Group, partner organizations and agencies, and landowners to provide an improved future for habitat in our state.”
The Pheasant Habitat Work Group, a 13-member task force appointed by Gov. Dennis Daugaard, has met seven times this year and is expected to hand a report of recommended ways to enhance South Dakota’s upland habitat for pheasants to the governor by mid-September. “To a pheasant hunter and conservationist, that report should be equally, if not more heavily, anticipated than the brood count report,” Nomsen says, “I look forward to the recommendations of the governor’s task force and the subsequent actions of policy makers that will hopefully help to assure that South Dakota will forever be known as the “Pheasant Capital of the World.”
South Dakota’s statewide pheasant hunting season opens on Saturday, Oct. 18, and runs through Jan. 4, 2015.
Pheasants Forever in South Dakota
South Dakota’s 32 Pheasants Forever chapters account for 6,000 members statewide. Those chapters have spent $4.8 million to complete 24,000 habitat projects since the first South Dakota chapter formed in Minnehaha County in 1985. Those projects have improved 360,000 acres for wildlife.
Pheasants Forever, including its quail conservation division, Quail Forever, is the nation's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to upland habitat conservation. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever have more than 140,000 members and 745 local chapters across the United States and Canada. Chapters are empowered to determine how 100 percent of their locally raised conservation funds are spent, the only national conservation organization that operates through this truly grassroots structure.