South Dakota officials hoping for late-season pheasant hunting surge

ABERDEEN, S.D. — Officials say it’s been a slow pheasant season in South Dakota, but late-season hunting is often the best option when bird numbers are below average.

The state’s 78-day pheasant season began Oct. 21 and ends Jan. 7. With half the season ahead, pheasant hunters can take advantage of temperatures dropping, reported Aberdeen American News.

Travis Runia is the senior upland game biologist for the state’s Game, Fish and Parks Department. He said once the majority of crop harvesting has been completed, there is less cover for pheasants to hide from hunters. Runia said winter weather forces the birds to seek thicker cover to survive.

“It’s inevitable we’re going to get cold, and even though we have a lower pheasant population, that first cold snap or the first snow can put those birds in a smaller area and make it a better hunt,” said Runia.

The number of hunters usually dwindles later in the season, which could also mean less competition on public lands. Runia said that participation declines when the department’s August roadside pheasant survey estimates a smaller population.

“I don’t have the exact numbers, but we know we have lower license sales than last year,” said Runia.

Hunting in the late-season months can also make it easier to gain access to private lands, according to Eric Voigt, a conservation officer for the department.

For those interested in late-season hunting, Voigt suggests focusing on areas like the cattails with heavier cover. Voigt also said bringing hunting dogs can lead to more success in cooler temperatures.

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