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Pheasants harder to find in South Dakota this year

November 21, 2012 at 02:06 PM

The Associated Press

MITCHELL, S.D. (AP) — Though the crop harvest has long been over, many in South Dakota are still busy harvesting another natural resource — pheasants.

South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks officials say the population of the state bird is up this year, but many hunters say finding the birds is a difficult task.

Ken Blaalid, owner of Leader Sporting Goods in Mitchell, said hunting is more difficult this year than in years past because dry conditions forced farmers to remove crops from fields earlier than normal.

“The cover is only in certain areas and that is where the birds are,” Blaalid said. “It’s a little harder hunting this year, but we have had some really good years in the past so it’s still hard to complain.”

He said the hunters that come into his store have generally been in high spirits about the pheasant hunting in this area and he has yet to field any complaints.

Chris Whermann, of Mitchell, was hunting deer Saturday afternoon but said he has been out pheasant hunting about 10 times this year.

“I had pretty good luck this year. They are out there, you just have to find them,” Whermann said. “I’m finding them in a lot of thick cover, stuff that’s hard to walk through and get too.”

Whermann expects birds to congregate in even more cover as the weather turns harsh as winter hits.

Monty Rast, of Orangeburg, S.C., has been coming to Mount Vernon to hunt for six years and said it’s a little harder to find birds this year. He could be seen walking a large dried-up slough with his hunting partners Saturday.

“The birds are few and far between right now but we are out here having a good time,” Rast said. “It goes and comes; that’s why they call it hunting.”

Despite what many hunters believe are fewer numbers, the South Dakota Game Fish and Parks’ brood count survey from this summer showed an increase over last year’s numbers in the Mitchell area. Count numbers rose from 2.83 pheasants per mile in 2011 to 3.91 in 2012, or an increase of 38 percent. Though numbers are up compared to last year, they are still well below the 10-year average for the area of 6.1 pheasants per mile. And the count for adult roosters was down 5 percent statewide.

Blaide Hanson, a guide for Restless Wings Lodge in Mount Vernon, said despite Game, Fish and Parks saying pheasant numbers are up, populations in the Mitchell area are “still pretty rough” compared to past years. Despite this, the 10 hunters Hanson was guiding Saturday already had 14 roosters by 11 a.m.

“It’s just about the same as last year and last year wasn’t very good,” Hanson said.

The pheasant season lasts until Jan. 6. Hunting times are 10 a.m. until sunset. The daily limit is three roosters.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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