October ushers a return to nature for scores of hunters who live in South Dakota or arrive in the state for pheasant season. A Game Fish and Parks official has a pheasant forecast.

Regional supervisor Emmet Keyser has worked all the numbers from the surveys he has seen. The conclusion for Keyser is that the count is down from normal but is still optimistic.

“From 2016 we’re probably down statewide 45 percent in pheasants per mile average. That’s pretty significant, but we’ll be pretty similar to the 2013 season. Even then we harvested just under a million pheasants. It’s still the best thing going in the continental U.S. for hunting pheasants.”

Dry weather in May, June and July were especially harmful to the brood counts and Keyser breaks down why the young were affected so dramatically.

“Young birds really require a high production of insects. In the first couple months of their lives pheasants are solely reliant on insects for food and provide moisture even. Drought conditions over much of the state at the time the birds came off the nest caused chick survival to really suffer. That was probably the primary factor.”

Keyser says that hunters will probably find good success in Davison, Aurora, Hutchinson, and Hanson Counties this year.

Long term prognosis according to Keyser would improve if more farmers utilized acres for CRP to improve habitat. Over six hundred thousand acres have been taken out of the program since 2007.

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