Pheasant hunters in South Dakota bag over 1.1 million birds last season

PIERRE, S.D.(DRGNews)- During the 2022-23 pheasant hunting season in South Dakota, hunters harvested an estimated 1.158-million birds.

Game, Fish and Parks Secretary Kevin Robling says reports from hunters throughout the season spoke to the abundance of birds and the harvest numbers support their claims. He says this past season saw the highest harvest since 2016 and was 10% higher than the past 10-year average. These numbers translate to an average of 9 pheasants per hunter for the 2022 season.

Robling says South Dakota’s claim to the greatest state to pheasant hunt is supported by these pheasants per hunter numbers. He says while surrounding states generally see harvest rates of 3 to 6 birds per hunter, South Dakota routinely sees harvest rates around 9 pheasants per hunter, such as in 2022.

Robling says South Dakota’s focus on habitat and public access have led to a high quantity of birds across the state, ample areas to target them and overall good hunting conditions. He says GFP has 12 private lands habitat biologists that work directly with landowners to identify both habitat projects and access programs that will benefit the landowners, hunters and wildlife. Working alongside landowners and on state Game Production Areas, GFP is focused on planting and improving all types of habitat including perennial grasses, woody vegetation and pollinator plots across the state.

Providing access to these areas for hunters to enjoy is critical. In 2022, there was 1.48 million acres of private land enrolled in GFP’s public access programs. These lands are enrolled in GFP’s Walk-in Area, James River Watershed Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), Controlled Hunting Access Program, Lower Oahe Waterfowl Access Area, Elk Hunting Access Area and Aquatic Access programs.

Mark Norton, Hunting Access and Farm Bill Coordinator, says the largest program for private land access is the Walk-In Area program. He says this year, they celebrate its 35th anniversary and look forward to continuing to build upon one of the most successful programs ever for public hunting access.

Approximately 80% of land in South Dakota is privately owned, which makes these access programs critical for ample public hunting opportunities. The various programs accommodate the different hunting opportunities across the state and various needs of the landowner themselves.

The purchase of both hunting and fishing licenses, as well as the habitat stamp, directly supports these programs.

The traditional season ran from October 15, 2022, to January 31, 2023.

After celebrating another successful pheasant season, GFP is focused on the season to come. Habitat improvement projects are taking place throughout the spring and summer, and biologists continue to contact landowners about enrolling their land in public hunting programs. GFP’s goal for 2023 is to exceed 1.5 million acres of private land enrolled for public hunting, increasing from the 1.48 million acres enrolled in 2022. Hunters will be able to enjoy the results of these efforts when the next season begins.

The 2023 traditional pheasant season runs from October 21, 2023, to January 31, 2024.