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Pheasant harvest topped 1.5 million in 2011

PIERRE -- South Dakota has become such a hotspot for pheasant hunting that even a down season turned out to be very good last year.

Hunters harvested more than 1.5 million pheasants in South Dakota during the 2011 season, according to an estimate presented Wednesday to the state Game, Fish and Parks Commission.

That's down from an estimated 1.8 million roosters taken by hunters in 2010.

GF&P biologist Chad Switzer said the smaller take was expected, after the tough winter of 2010-2011 and the loss of some habitat as farmers converted grass acres to crops.

Switzer said the 2011 harvest was still the ninth-highest in the past 20 years.

The summer brood count, an index conducted annually by GF&P, indicated the preseason population of pheasants would be about 6.6 million. The 2010 population was pegged at about 9.8 million.

"Even with that decline, things were still good from a large-scale perspective," he said.

Hunters again turned out in large numbers despite the lower expectations.

Non-resident hunters totaled 95,077, down from 100,189 in 2010, while South Dakota hunters numbered 69,120, down from 72,465.