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September 22, 2009 10:15 PM

Pheasant Preview

South Dakota's Pheasant season is still about four weeks away, but already hunters are chomping at the bit to get out and shoots some birds. But wildlife officials say don't get too anxious, because getting your limit could be hard to come by.

Fall in South Dakota typically means one thing: Pheasant hunting!

"You know it starts opening weekend and we hunt pheasants all the way to the last day you can hunt," Josh Lovro of Madison said.

As Lovro looks over the boxes and boxes of shotgun shells at a local sporting store, he says he can't wait to hit the fields and ditches of South Dakota with his dad and buddies. 

"It's a good time even if you don't get anything, you can always have a good time," Lovro said. 

"Just the thrill of getting the kids out there to learn to hunt, we have some friends we go with and their kids come out," Greg Schmelz of Rapid City said.

But according to wildlife officials, the number of birds is going to be down compared to last year, some areas by as much as 25 percent, mainly due to weather. 

"This spring was very wet, lots of storms and hail, those hens will nest in low lying areas and grassy areas and a lot of times those areas get flooded out just a lot of heavy rain and it hurt the hatch," Rakowicz said.

But judging by the numbers, hunters should have great success. 

"Don't worry, there are still a lot of birds out there actually we've been keeping track, we've been running these brood counts for 45 years,and still the fourth highest number count we've had in 45 years, so there are lots of birds out there to be had," Rakowicz said.

Racowicz says you just may have to work a little harder because of a delayed harvest. 

"With the wet cool summer we had they are going to let that corn go as long as they can before harvesting, so the guys that I've talked to they are going to keep their corn in the fields as long as they can before they get it out so it could be another opening weekend, or two or three weekends with a lot of standing corn," Rakowicz said.

Rakowicz says if that's the case, hunters should be patient, because last year proved, that the early bird *doesn't always get his bird. 

"The guys who waited for the last hours of the shooting day, were doing much better when those birds are coming back out of the standing corn and getting into the grass," Rakowicz said. 

Pheasant hunting is big business. From buying caps to hunting vest to shotguns and shells, state officials estimate the economic impact to the state is $219 million.

But no matter how much money you spend, for most hunter the time spent with family and friends, is priceless.

"Pheasant season is everything."

The state says hunters harvested close to two million pheasants last year and they expect that number to be the same this year.

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