- Associated Press - Friday, September 4, 2015

ABERDEEN, S.D. (AP) - With South Dakota’s annual pheasant survey indicating an uptick in the number of birds hunters should encounter this season, a conservation group says the focus needs to be on habitat.

The state Game, Fish and Parks Department released its statewide pheasant survey last week, noting a 42 percent jump in birds compared to last year’s survey. Officials credited mild winter and spring weather.

Dave Nomsen, vice president of government affairs for Pheasants Forever, told the Aberdeen American News (https://bit.ly/1JGFjj1 ) that such a strong weather-related response is verification that the state is on the right track.

“If you put the right habitat in the right areas, you can double and triple that population in a short time frame just because pheasants are so prolific and so biologically receptive to responding to the right conditions,” Nomsen said.

This year’s pheasants-per-mile index is at 3.8, up from 2.68 last year and 1.52 in 2013, when hunters harvested slightly less than 1 million pheasants. This year’s index is similar to 2011, when hunters bagged 1.56 million birds, said Travis Runia, a senior upland game biologist for the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department.

Pheasants Forever, a conservation group based in St. Paul, Minnesota, established its first-ever regional headquarters in Brookings last year after the state’s pheasant population hit a modern-day record low in 2013.

Nomsen, who is leading the outreach effort in Brookings, said he’s excited about discovering ways to maximize the potential of the South Dakota Habitat Conservation Fund, which was formed in 2014 and designed to provide a permanent funding source for wildlife habitat work. Nomsen hopes that it becomes a proving ground for new, innovative ways to keep grass and other viable habitat in place and while improving growers’ bottom lines.

The South Dakota governor’s office says private donors have contributed a total of $425,000 to the fund, while state government has dedicated $350,000.

South Dakota’s pheasant season runs from Oct. 17 through Jan. 3. Youth resident hunters in the state can get a jump on finding pheasants with the state’s annual youth hunting extended weekend from Oct. 3-7. A residents-only pheasant weekend runs from Oct. 10-12.


Information from: Aberdeen American News, https://www.aberdeennews.com

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