SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department is asking landowners to consider waiting to mow roadside ditches until July 10. 

State law doesn’t allow right-of-way mowing on state highways in East River counties until July 10. GFP officials are asking landowners to consider the same deadlines for non-state highway roads. 

Tom Kirschenmann, GFP Division of Wildlife director, said the roadside ditches play a critical role in providing nesting habitat for pheasants. 

“Roadside ditches provide valuable nesting cover for upland birds, especially in portions of the state where there is limited upland habitat,” Kirschenmann said in a news release. “Even the delay of a week or two will result in more successful nest attempts.” 

The GFP says peak hatching typically happens in mid-June and hens and newly hatched broods remain susceptible to mowing equipment two weeks after hatching.

The ditch mowing rule does allow the Department of Transportation to begin mowing road right of ways before the start dates to provide increased safety or control weeds. 

For last year’s hunting season, mid-October until the end of January, the official estimated pheasant harvest was 1,067,423, which was a 3.7% decline from the previous year. GFP officials said it still likely led the nation in numbers of pheasants harvested.

More pheasant hunters bought licenses, 130,017 according to the GFP, up 6.7% from the year before.