South Dakota pheasant hunting in 2013 was another abnormal year. After so many outstanding years of unbelievable pheasant populations, we’d become spoiled with skies so full of birds that if you missed your target, you might get one anyway.
Here’s my take on what has led to the lower bird numbers. It started in the summer of 2012 when the rain spigot shut off. So going into 2013, the main concern for the pheasant population centered on water, but that concern was rained out, as the ground became saturated and the water holes filled up and began overflowing. 2013 was an amazing year for rain, and we were so blessed to have our soil profile go from bone dry to saturated in such a short amount of time. So dehydration was not a problem. However, the drought of 2012 did still play a significant role in the pheasant population of 2013. That’s because the winter wheat which was planted in the fall of 2012 did not have enough moisture to create a good crop, so in the spring of 2013, most all of the winter wheat acres were sprayed out and replanted to a fall crop. In our part of the country, winter wheat is king, and the majority of the acreage is planted into winter wheat each year. Winter wheat also happens to be the number 1 nesting ground for pheasants, as predators have a terrible hard time finding and catching pheasants in a sea of thick wheat. So the nesting was confined to the remaining CRP acres and grass corridors. This turned out to be a predator’s delight, and they had a hay day on the hatch, and they wiped out brood upon brood. A few lucky chicks managed to escape. And, although roosters are prolific breeders, there were not enough to rebreed all the hens whose clutches were completely destroyed, so we saw so many hens last year with 0, 1 or 2 chicks with them. During normal years, such sites are a rarity.
We did see it coming, so we acquired some premium pen-raised birds and released them on a few of our fields, so if hunters did have a difficult time with the wild birds, they could go to a supplemented field. This was the first time that we’ve ever released any birds, and I heard from numerous clients that they appreciated the opportunity of hunting both wild and released birds.
Although we had far fewer pheasants than we’ve become used to, our area of the country has remained the highest pheasant population in South Dakota and probably in the Country as well.
I take my dogs out for runs through our fields each day, so I have a pretty good handle on our pheasant population. My take on the population is that we have a very good number of hens, and if we have a normal year, the hunting season of 2014 in Lyman County will be very good again!
On another note, Nick and his black lab joined Stephan, Flint and Greg with the guiding this past year. They were a great team and teammates, and I received a lot of compliments on all of the guides and their dogs–Kracker, Gunner, Kona, Rio & Mia. Thanks guys!
Thank you to all of you who contributed to another year filled with great memories at Ringnecks, and we look forward to seeing you all again soon. Call now for next year’s reservations!