In less than a month, thousands of out of state hunters will be scouring the fields of South Dakota during the opening weekend of pheasant hunting season.
While they’re out searching for the birds, Game, Fish and Parks officials say they need to be extra careful.
Because some roads and fields could still be underwater.
Jason Janssen is getting in a little target practice shooting clay pigeons at Hunter’s Point near Humboldt, but he’s hoping he’ll be shooting pheasants soon.
“I’ve got a four year old son, so I’ll probably start getting back into hunting again; be kind of fun to take him out even if it’s just driving around and showing him pheasants and wildlife,” Janssen said.
Janssen and others will have to be careful, though, because a lot of roads are still underwater or washed out from recent heavy rainfall, meaning some traditional hot spots for pheasant hunters may be a little tougher to get to this season.
“It can definitely make things more difficult as a pheasant hunter, if you got a big group, you know you got a big pond coming up and it’s usually not there, now you got to reroute and the dozen people got to find another way,” Roger Pollreisz said.
That’s why officials are encouraging hunters, even those from out-of-state, to do their homework before opening day and do a little surveying of the roads and fields where they typically like to hunt.
“The big thing is, you know, you might have some roads that are closed, poor conditions on some of those roads, so I think it’s smart to get out there and take a look and see what it looks like,” wildlife supervisor Josh Delger said.
Wildlife supervisor with the Game, Fish and Parks Department Josh Delger wants everyone to be safe and says hunters need to respect any barricades that are up and don’t drive around them.
“The other thing to keep in mind, you know, hunting public or private, keep those landowners in mind, don’t drive in areas that could potentially be wet and cause problems, just try to stick to the high ground,” Delger said.
The number of pheasants is down by 17% this year, blamed partially on spring flooding that washed out a lot of nesting grounds. But Delger doesn’t think the most recent flooding will have any impact on the numbers.
“We know that they’ve been displaced out of those habitats that have gotten flooded and received a lot of rainfall, but usually they can respond pretty well, and they’re able to move and get to higher ground and be okay, so hopefully, you know, we don’t have much for loss and numbers of birds, but we’ll see as the water recedes if they’ll go back into those areas or not,” Delger said.
One thing he is sure about, though, even with all this standing water, there is still a flood of pheasants to be shot.
“Exactly, you know, going into the spring and summer we knew that there was potential for lower numbers of birds or numbers of broods, because it was so wet, I’d say we were positive to see that we had decent numbers of birds after, after the way the spring and summer looked, so we’re actually pretty happy about that,” Delger said.
One other positive note, Delger says, because there is so much habitat under water right now, the pheasants have few places to hide.
The first weekend of pheasant hunting season in South Dakota opens October 12 for in-state hunters. For out-of-state hunters it’s October 19.