More non-resident hunters seeking pheasants this fall

From a revenue standpoint, the state Game, Fish and Parks Commission received good news Friday. More non-resident hunters have purchased small-game licenses for pursuing pheasants in South Dakota so far this fall.

From a revenue standpoint, the state Game, Fish and Parks Commission received good news Friday. More non-resident hunters have purchased small-game licenses for pursuing pheasants in South Dakota so far this fall.

Through October, approximately 4,200 more non-residents hunters have purchased the $121 licenses than at a similar point last year, according to Scott Simpson, a state Division of Wildlife official.

The sales total for non-resident small game as of Oct. 27 was 47,264. Last year it was 43,013 through the season's second weekend.

Sales are likewise up across the board among non-residents for youth small game, annual shoot preserve, five-day shooting preserve and one-day shooting preserve.

Altogether, about 4,900 more non-resident licenses for pheasants have been sold.


State biologists reported in August they had observed increases in pheasant broods spotted from roadsides along specific routes throughout much of South Dakota.

Statewide the increase was 42 percent from 2014. The average per mile was 3.80, up from 2.68 in 2014.

Even so, the 2015 numbers were down 30 percent from the 10-year average.

Nonetheless, the positive publicity about the upswing from 2014 evidently helped encourage hunters to visit South Dakota again, after several years of weak or mediocre production and lower sales of licenses.

"We've got a little debate about how much it's going to be up," Simpson told the commissioner. "It's encouraging that we are up."

He said he should have a stronger feel by the commission's December meeting. He joked that he had to wait for his supper Thursday because the restaurant had many out-of-town hunters.

Licensed hunters in 2014 included 63,704 residents and 79,636 non-residents.

They marked a slight rebound from 2013 when there were 57,577 residents and 74,424 non-residents. Those were smallest numbers of residents since the 1930s and non-residents since the current boom took off in 2003.


Non-residents peaked at 103,231 in 2007. The 100,000 mark was broken again in 2008 and 2010.

Hunter success was solid for the full opening weekend Oct. 17-18, although many crops remained in the fields, said Tom Kirschenmann, the game chief for the Wildlife Division.

He said hunting normally becomes better as the harvest proceeds, because the birds have fewer and fewer big fields in which to hide, and they congregate in larger numbers in smaller cover.

"It's nice to see pheasant numbers rise, but the gatherings that happen this time of year, they're priceless," commissioner Cathy Peterson of Salem said.

John Cooper, of Pierre, the commission's chairman, said there was a concern in the Mitchell area about spraying of soybean fields in August. He said hunters wondered whether the broods suffered from the loss of bugs.

Cooper asked whether there should be a study of August spraying and whether it's going to be a mortality issue.

Kirschenmann said he has been in contact with some members of the state Department of Agriculture staff about the fungicide used during that time frame. He said they didn't think there would be any overall effect, but the verdict remained out for individual birds.

Cooper, who previously oversaw the Game, Fish and Parks Department during parts of the Bill Janklow and Mike Rounds administrations, said facts should be gathered.


Kirschenmann said he would keep working on the matter.

Peterson, whose family farms and hosts hunters, said she thought crops in the field had the most effect on holding down the numbers of pheasants killed by hunters in the opening days.

"And because of perception, we do have to be careful. The spraying in August was for a bug that had to be taken care of," Peterson said.

"We're seeing more birds now," she said.

South Dakota pheasant hunters are up somewhat, as well.

Sales of resident combination licenses which are for small game and fishing were 46,571 through Oct. 27, up from 44,560 at the similar point last year.

Sales of senior combination licenses were 7,729, up from 6,746. Sales of junior combinations were 7,923, down from 7,928.

Resident small-game license sales were 18,835, down from 19,554. Youth small-game licenses were 4,662, down from 4,706. One-day small-game licenses were 779, up from 565.

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