PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Upland bird hunters in South Dakota will again face different closing dates for grouse and pheasants seasons.
The state Game, Fish and Parks Commission decided Friday that grouse season will end on Sunday, January 2, 2022. The pheasant season will run nearly a month later and end on Monday, January 31, 2022.
The commission last year extended the pheasant season through January 31 and two months ago proposed ending grouse on January 31, too. But several commissioners who are landowners spoke up Thursday afternoon, questioning whether grouse might be too vulnerable, especially in dry years when their populations are noticeably thin, and in deep cold, when they’re easily seen in shelterbelts or bare trees, sometimes in big packs.
Chairman Russ Olson of Wentworth decided to hold back the grouse season decision until Friday morning. Commissioners Robert Whitmyre of Webster and Travis Bies of Fairburn said they remained concerned about stressing the population of the birds that are native species to the prairie.
The result is grouse season will open the third Saturday of September, as it traditionally has. The main pheasant season starts the third Saturday of October, as it traditionally has.
State Wildlife Division director Tom Kirschenmann told commissioners Friday before the vote that he didn’t know what harvest would be if the grouse season extended through January. The bulk of the grouse harvest is the first weeks of the season, he said, and the proposed change was seen as providing hunters with more opportunity.
“We don’t anticipate a large number of birds (grouse) being harvested at that time,” Kirschenmann said.
But commissioners Whitmyre and Bies said they’d prefer being cautious and wanted to keep the traditional ending date for grouse. Kirschenmann said biologists will continue to work to collect more information on grouse harvest. “We can have further discussions into the future,” he said.