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OUR VIEW: GF&P numbers don't add up to anything sinister

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We aren't surprised to hear that there was disappointment about pheasant-hunting numbers and the resulting pheasant harvest in 2012. We had suspected that the drought would play a role in the state's hunting season, and it apparently did.

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A story we published on our front page Saturday noted that approximately 1.4 million pheasants were harvested in South Dakota last year, which continued a slow decline in the state. In 2010, approximately 1.8 million pheasants were bagged; in 2011, the number was 1.56 million.

Likewise, we also aren't surprised to hear that some people are disappointed with the state Department of Game, Fish and Parks for the decrease. As our report noted Saturday, some people feel they were led to expect better results in 2012.

It's a story that repeats itself nearly every year. The GF&P issues its preseason estimates, and then hunters who don't find much success wonder if the GF&P is intentionally inflating the numbers.

We don't buy it.

The GF&P bases its numbers on historic surveys that are conducted each summer. But while these surveys are consistent, they aren't necessarily scientific. There is no way to truly determine the exact number of pheasants that are living near a certain rural road.

We hope the GF&P never stops giving its preseason estimates, but meanwhile, we never would bet money on the agency's forecasts. There are just too many variables that come into play.

Some years, it's too much snow or rain. Some years, it's too little.

We also don't believe the GF&P really has anything to gain by misleading hunters.

We acknowledge that more licenses purchased equals more revenue for the state, and also that more hunters in the field equals more tourism dollars.

But we also note that the GF&P has made some rather dire predictions, too.

We will continue to believe that the GF&P is using its best judgment when it issues its annual statistics. We also will continue to believe that the GF&P is acting independently of the state Department of Tourism and its own license-purchasing hopes and dreams.

Sometimes, the numbers just don't add up.

We chalk it up to a difficult process and many variables that may enter the mix each year -- not to some sinister plan to mislead the public.

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