South Dakota sees drop in 2016 pheasant hunting season
PIERRE (AP) — The number of pheasant hunters in South Dakota in 2016 and the number of birds they killed were both down from the previous year, according to the state's upland hunting harvest survey.
The Capital Journal reported that slightly more than 61,000 residents and about 81,000 nonresidents took to the South Dakota pheasant fields in 2016, down a few thousand from the 2015 season.
Senior upland game biologist Travis Runia said the slump wasn't entirely unexpected because the overall number of pheasants decreased about 20 percent.
"It's pretty amazing that so many people base their decision on that count," he said.
Despite fewer pheasant hunters, the number of birds each hunter took home remained close to 2015 numbers. Resident hunters took home around eight birds each, while nonresidents took home around nine birds. South Dakota hunters took home a little more than 1.1 pheasants in 2016.
Runia said the 2016 harvest data showed a continued correlation between the pheasant population and the number of acres of land in the Conservation Reserve Program, which pays landowners to plant grass instead of crops.
The state's pheasant population most recently peaked in 2007, around the same time the number of acres in the program peaked. Since then, the state's pheasant harvest as dropped nearly in half, from slightly more than 2 million in 2007 to a little more than 1.17 million in 2016.