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Hunters report safe weekend

Gary Drewrey, of Oxford, Miss., sits with Sadie, his 4-year-old Llewellin Setter, in Letcher Sunday evening. This is the 13th year Drewrey has traveled to the area to hunt pheasants. The retired high school football coach hit his limit on Saturday, but not on Sunday. Still, he's happy with the start of the season and intends to return in November to do some additional hunting. (Austin Kaus/ Republic Photo)

The opening weekend of South Dakota's pheasant hunting season has been a safe and productive one.

As of Sunday afternoon, Game, Fish and Parks Conservation Officer Andy Petersen said no injuries had been reported even as orange-clad hunters tromped through area fields in search of pheasants.

"It's one of the few years that has happened," Petersen said.

Officials across the state reported fewer violations and accidents compared to last year.

Hunting seemed better in the central area of the state, according to the GF&P. Hunters were averaging two to three birds in the central part of the state. GF&P Region 4 Game Manager Scott Lindgren said hunters averaged between half a bird per hunter to limits in the west portion of the state.

In Sanborn, Aurora, Jerauld, Miner and Beadle counties, hunters averaged between two and three birds each.

"Many bigger groups hunting found good success hunting corn strips and had limits by 3 p.m.," said GF&P Region 3 Game Manager Ron Schauer. "Many of those areas still have around 70 percent of corn in the fields, so I expect hunting to only get better."

Locally, Petersen said he had no incidents of intoxicated hunters, something that can be common during opening weekend. There were a low number of other offenses, including hunting after sundown and trespassing.

Petersen believed initial hunting numbers may be slightly lower than average, but he expected them to pick up as the season progresses.

"It will just continue to get better once we get some crops out of the field," Petersen said.

Mitchell resident Kevin Haag said he believes there are more birds further south of the area. Like Petersen, he expects kill numbers to get better as more and more crops are harvested, thus removing cover for the pheasants.

"I think the cover's hurting things right now," Haag said. "I think the birds are there."

At Lakeview Veterinary Clinic, Dr. Joni Kniffen said there were no serious hunting dog injuries reported. As of Sunday afternoon, the on-call doctor had treated only three dogs for minor lacerations. Because of the mild temperatures, no heat-related injuries had been reported.

"The cooler weather's been helping prevent them from being overheated," Kniffen said.

"We really couldn't have asked for a much better day to open our pheasant season," said GFP Wildlife Director Tony Leif. "It will only get better from here."