I have been through the food plots numerous times so far this year with fertilizing and spraying, and the hold over pheasant population is looking outstanding! In addition, we received a couple of extended, slow rains with both rains producing 2 inches of rain which has saturated our soil profile and filled are watering holes. These rains have really made the wheat and grass grow tall, early in the season, so the nesting habitat is looking fabulous!
Another major factor that I see taking place is the increase in winter wheat acres. One of the main reasons that Lyman County boasts such a high pheasant population is due to the fact that winter wheat normally comprises the majority of acres of crop lands, and winter wheat is known to provide some of the best, if not the best, nesting habitat for pheasants. However, back in 2012 the drought led to a very poor stand of wheat, and a high percentage of those acres were sprayed out in the spring of 2013 and planted back into a fall, row crop. Acres that go into a fall crop are barren during the nesting season and provide no nesting value. Those acres in fall crop have to cycle through years of crop rotation to get back to winter wheat. We are back to our normal high rate of winter wheat acres, and they are looking fabulous!
2016 is looking to be a fantastic year for South Dakota Pheasant Hunting in Lyman County at Ringnecks Hunting Lodge!
This past year, we completed the remodel of the Lodge’s upstairs, and we were glad to hear all the positive feedback from those of you who stayed there this past year. Also, we remodeled the Game Room on the main floor. My favorite improvement is the stained mural of an 1850 era’s train coming into Presho, done by Lucas Campbell. FYI—after a long absence, the train is scheduled to return to Presho again this year, although they’re apparently not bringing the passenger cars back, since 1960’s ☹ Improvements for this upcoming year, include remodeling the kitchen and dining room and adding Chef Matt on staff for our all-inclusive groups. This past year, Chef Matt prepared meals for the Trigger Effect crew, and he and the meals received daily praise! I’m really looking forward to his meals this next fall! Also, we plan to convert the garage into a mud/dog room with lockers and boot heaters.
As for the bird numbers, there are two times during the year when we see good indicators of the upcoming pheasant population. One of those is during the summer wheat harvest that takes place around July. During this time, the harvest displaces the broods from wheat fields where hens and chicks have so far spent their lives. The other indicator comes in August when Game, Fish & Parks conduct their Brood Survey. This past year, the State GF&P saw a 42% increase state-wide in their brood counts. That seemed to correlate with what we had seen during the wheat harvest, so we expected a pheasant season similar to the 2011 season. That wasn’t, however, what we experienced this past year. What we did see was a pheasant population that was better than 2014 but not as good as 2011.
2016 looks to be a very good year for the pheasant population for many reasons. The first being that we have not experienced winter kill so far this year. Another major factor is the number of acres in winter wheat has grown greatly this past year. According to a research study conducted by S.D. State University, winter wheat is the best nesting habitat for pheasants! One of the main reasons that our location, Lyman County, routinely has the highest pheasant population in the country is that winter wheat is our main crop. However, back in 2012 when we suffered from a drought, the winter wheat didn’t germinate well. In the spring of 2013, most of the winter wheat got sprayed out and many of those acres were replanted into a fall crop. Although fall crops provide great cover for pheasants when they are grown up, those acres provide nothing during the nesting season, as they are barren during early summer! The winter wheat, on the other hand, is more than 8 inches tall and makes vast habitat that is nearly impossible for predators to find many of the nests and chicks. Lastly, our hen population is huge, and if each hen produces an average of 8 chicks, we are going to have a fantastic pheasant population in 2016!
Once again, the Trigger Effect TV crew joined us this year and filmed 3 days of wild bird hunting, and this year they brought their own hunting crew and a filmed with a drone as well! Those Canadians love hunting, filming and their hockey, eh? Last year they aired 2 fantastic episodes; I’m anxiously awaiting to see this year’s episodes! If you’re interested in viewing the episodes, check out www.triggereffect.tv This year’s episode is to be dedicated to Flint’s dog Cracker, as 2015 was his final year of commercial hunting! Cracker has been a great member of Ringnecks’ hunting team, and we’re going to miss him!
South Dakota’s 2014 brood count survey has just been released, and it’s very positive for South Dakota pheasant hunting, especially for Lyman County, which is located in central South Dakota. The individual route counts are categorized under the larger cities closest to the survey routes. The cities of Pierre, Chamberlain & Winner are, routinely, the top 3 pheasant population areas in the State, and Lyman County makes up the center of that triangle of cities.
Here are a couple of excerpts from some recent news articles. The full text of the full articles can be found below.
“The pheasant population is up everywhere, not just pheasant factories such as Lyman County, according to Tony Leif, the GF&P’s wildlife director” (Argus Leader)
“The 10 routes in the Chamberlain area, which includes Lyman County, averaged 6.55 birds per mile this year, a 147 percent increase.” (Argus Leader)
“Survey results show pheasant numbers rebounded the strongest in central South Dakota; especially in the Pierre, Chamberlain, Mobridge and Winner areas. Results also indicate that pheasant numbers are substantially higher than 2013 throughout much of eastern South Dakota.” (Star Tribune)
The following article was posted on 8-26-14 on www.argusleader.com:
Pheasant numbers rebound 76 percent
An annual pheasant count shows a big recovery for the birds in South Dakota following a population nose dive brought on by habitat loss and years of unfavorable nesting weather. The South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks’s annual pheasant brood survey turned up a 76 percent increase in pheasants per mile statewide compared to last year. The rebound was helped by great nesting conditions, but the survey numbers still are well below 10-year averages, suggesting habitat challenges remain. On 109 routes walked statewide, Game, Fish and Parks personnel counted an average of 2.68 birds per mile, up from only 1.52 birds per mile last year.
Moreover, the pheasant population is up everywhere, not just pheasant factories such as Lyman County, according to Tony Leif, the GF&P’s wildlife director. “We have a really good distribution of birds across the pheasant range in the eastern half of the state,” Leif said. While the 10 routes in the Chamberlain area, which includes Lyman County, averaged 6.55 birds per mile this year, a 147 percent increase, even the 11 routes counted near Brookings pheasant numbers improved to 1.16 birds per mile from 0.77 last year, a healthy 50 percent hike. This works in hunters’ favor. When the majority of a pheasant population is concentrated in a handful of counties and largely on private land, a limited number of hunters see most of the birds.
“Opportunity does not follow in a linear relationship to the number of birds,” Leif said. The brood survey is eagerly anticipated by hunters across the country who are considering hunting in South Dakota, and communities that bank on a pheasant hunting economic bonanza are due for some good news after a slow year. In South Dakota’s pheasant universe, 2007 was a high-water mark. The state had 1.56 million acres enrolled in the federal Conservation Reserve Program, and 180,836 resident and out-of-state hunters bagged 2.1 million birds. Pheasant hunting had an estimated economic impact of $219 million. Conservation acreage – vital for pheasant nesting, brooding and winter cover – has since fallen to 930,000 acres. The loss of habitat, coupled with several years of unfavorable weather during nesting, sent the pheasant population into a nose dive last year. Statewide, the average pheasants per mile was 1.52, down from 4.19 in 2012. The number of hunters fell to 132,060 last year, and they killed only 930,012 birds. The estimated economic impact of pheasant hunting last year was only $140.8 million. Kuip’s Corner Hardware in Platte sells hunting licenses, shotguns and gear during pheasant season. Last fall, business was down 70 percent, owner Mark Kuipers estimated.
This year’s brood survey “is going to help. No doubt about that,” Kuipers said. “People see that, and they are optimistic. It definitely makes a difference.” A member of Platte’s Pheasant Forever chapter, Kuipers pays close attention to pheasants in the Platte area. “We’re seeing some birds, and some big broods,” he said. “There seem to be 10 or 12 in a brood. Conditions were great for nesting. May and June were perfect.” The brood survey highlights the astonishing ability of pheasant hens to take advantage of favorable nesting conditions. “They are very tenacious nesters,” Leif said. “That’s why they are such a prolific game bird. They are so dedicated to producing young, and when conditions are right they are capable of producing bumper crops of birds.” Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever’s vice president of governmental affairs, called the brood survey “a bit of a tribute to the birds’ reproductive potential. They can just explode.” That said, and even with the 76 percent statewide increase this year, the brood survey still shows the pheasant population 53 percent below the 10-year statewide average of 5.75 birds per mile. Loss of habitat is the biggest driver of the decline. “The most substantial increases are where we have the best cover,” Leif said. “We had a lot of good years that started in the early 2000s. Weather and habitat lined up, and it took off.” Pheasants Forever focuses intensely on habitat improvement, according to Nomsen, and he thinks pheasant hunters, in the main, understand the importance of good habitat. “Something has happened to pheasant hunters in the last 30 years. The message has sunk in. They are more knowledgeable about pheasant biology and habitat needs,” he said. A hopeful brood survey report can fire up the resolve of hunters, landowners and wildlife enthusiasts to do even more to improve habitat. “We are going to be looking for new opportunities for new chapters and new events all across the pheasant range,” Nomsen said. “We are trying to support our existing 50 chapters” in South Dakota “to do even more.” Gov. Dennis Daugaard late last year appointed a task force to develop recommendations for improving pheasant habitat, and the group is close to issuing a final report.
“We are anxious to see the recommendations and how they are acted upon,” Nomsen said. “That will be the key.” He anticipates the hopeful news embodied in the brood survey will amplify efforts to increase wildlife habitat to ensure pheasants thrive. “Can this bring more people to the table to help us?” he said. “We sure hope so.” 2014 Brood Survey Report Chamberlain: 6.55 pheasants per mile, up from 2.0 in 2013 Winner: 3.78 pheasants per mile, up from 2.0 in 2013 Pierre: 5.20 pheasants per mile, up from 2.15 in 2013 Mobridge: 3.59 pheasants per mile, up from 2.12 in 2013 Aberdeen: 2.74 pheasants per mile, up from 1.70 in 2013 Huron: 2.92 pheasants per mile, up from 2.04 in 2013 Mitchell: 3.04 pheasants per mile, up from 2.0 in 2013 Yankton: 1.36 pheasants per mile, up from 0.68 in 2013 Sioux Falls: 1.06 pheasants per mile, up from 0.90 in 2013 Brookings: 1.16 pheasants per mile, up from 0.77 in 2013 Watertown: 1.21 pheasants per mile, up from 0.77 in 2013 Sisseton: 0.77 pheasants per mile, up from 0.56 in 2013 Western S.D.: 1.53 pheasants per mile, up from 1.01 in 2013 Statewide: 2.68 pheasants per mile, up from 1.52 in 2013
The following article was posted on 8-26-14 on www.startribune.com:
Posted by: Doug Smith Updated: August 26, 2014 – 2:48 PM
Finally, a bit of good news for pheasant hunters: South Dakota’s annual pheasant survey shows a 76 percent increase in the ringneck index. The 2014 statewide pheasants-per-mile index of 2.68 is up from 1.52 in 2013. The index is similar to 2002 when hunters harvested 1.26 million roosters. “With favorable weather conditions this past winter and spring, along with the availability of quality nesting habitat across the state, we are going to see an increase in this year’s pheasant population,” stated Jeff Vonk, Game Fish and Parks secretary. “Survey results show pheasant numbers rebounded the strongest in central South Dakota; especially in the Pierre, Chamberlain, Mobridge and Winner areas. Results also indicate that pheasant numbers are substantially higher than 2013 throughout much of eastern South Dakota.” Here’s more from a news release:
From late July through mid-August, GFP surveyed 109, 30 mile-routes across the state to estimate pheasant production and calculate the pheasants-per-mile index. The survey is not a population estimate, but compares the number of pheasants observed on the routes and establishes trend information. Survey routes are grouped into 13 areas, based on a local city, and the index value of each local city area is then compared to index values of the previous year and the 10-year average. “Habitat is at the forefront of the conversation right now and is a crucial factor in pheasant numbers,” stated Vonk. “Bird numbers are higher this year due to excellent reproduction in parts of the state where quality habitat conditions still exist, primarily on grasslands including those enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program as well as fields of cereal crops such as winter wheat. We continue to work in cooperation with the Governor’s Pheasant Habitat Workgroup, partner organizations and agencies, and landowners to provide an improved future for habitat in our state.”
Public hunting opportunities are abundant in South Dakota. Over 1 million acres of publicly owned and private land leased through GFP’s Walk-In Area Program and the James River Watershed Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program is available in the primary pheasant range of South Dakota. The 2014 public hunting atlas and a web-based interactive map of public lands and private lands leased for public hunting can be found online at http://gfp.sd.gov/hunting/areas. “The results of this survey are highly anticipated by many who have a strong interest in South Dakota’s hunting heritage. The availability of pheasants and pheasant hunting opportunities in our state this fall should serve to enhance that heritage,” concluded Vonk. South Dakota’s traditional statewide pheasant hunting season opens on Saturday, Oct. 18, and runs through Jan. 4, 2015.