South Dakota is well known for many things. Sioux Falls has the best bagel shop that people boast about in the span of several states. The Black Hills and Badlands marks the spot of one of the most popular historical tourist attractions in the country–Mount Rushmore. There are many attractions and activities throughout the state to take advantage of, but one of the hidden gems of the state is its pheasant hunting.
The flatlands, the prairies, and the seasonal weather make this an ample spot to get in some good hunting time. From year to year, many hunters flock to the “hills” to get in several days of pheasant hunting. In recent years, it has become somewhat of a tourist attraction in and of itself. Gun specials are often held right around this time to ensure that it attracts even more people. You can easily find a sale on sites like Calibersnm.com to prepare for an upcoming trip or season.
A Low Count
Despite a climb in popularity, however, 2013 saw a decline in the pheasant count. There are a number of reasons for this decline. The Pheasant Brood Survey Report confirmed that “while long term pheasant populations are primarily influenced by habitat quantity, dramatic short term fluctuations can occur in response to extreme weather conditions. Historically, severe winters, cold/wet springs, and extreme drought have negatively influenced short term population trends. All of these conditions were experienced across portions of the state during the past year.”
Overall, the pheasant count throughout the state averaged 64% lower than in 2012. This seems to have been a noticeable trend since around 2008, as a response to “accelerating habitat loss in combination with a series of very unfavorable weather events.” The previous winter was considered a harsh winter throughout the state. Additionally, conditions continued into the Spring, which might have been cause for the decrease in pheasants for several reasons. With temperatures averaging 10 degrees below normal through early May, “it is almost certain that most pheasants delayed nesting by 2-3 weeks,” ultimately causing a smaller pheasant count. And as a result of drought conditions in the Fall of 2012, many farms were unable to plant their winter wheat, and became other crops in 2013. “Winter wheat is an important pheasant production habitat, particularly in central SD where it is typically abundant.”
Hunting will always draw many tourists and travelers. But in a state like South Dakota, there is not much that will keep visitors away, even despite less-than-optimal hunting conditions. Winters can be harsh as you get further north, but that is often made up for by some great winter events and activities that help to bring in some visitors. Likewise, hot and humid summers can still bring visitors out to the lakes and/or famous attractions like Mount Rushmore. And not only that, but the famous and picturesque Black Hills and Badlands are a sight to see if nothing else.
Planning a trip to South Dakota can be a fun and exciting trip, whether or not you get to hunt pheasant. Although a popular sport, it is not the only thing to so in the state. Pheasant counts are expected to go back up after all of the winter moisture (which provides hope for a wet spring) passes through. So why waste time? Start planning your next trip before it fills up (or before the birds are gone).
Image Source: ringneckshuntinglodge.com