Our second limit of the trip
Sisseton SD Day 4 Pheasant Hunting Trip Limit
It was decent weather for the start of our 2023 South Dakota Pheasant Hunting trip. 45 degrees and not too much wind. We hunted all new spots today. Val got the first spot and got one hen point in her hour run. The area looked good but just didn't produce.
Tasha got the call for the 2nd spot. This one looked better as it had a freshly picked corn field next to it. We started with 2 hen points in the grass and then she had a nice point along some cattails and we were able to harvest the bird. She did a nice job on the retrieve as most of the shot had hit one of the wings.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ highly anticipated pheasant release program is expanding for the upcoming pheasant hunting season. This year, the program will include:
This strategic expansion ensures a greater distribution of released pheasants and gives hunters even more options to explore Michigan's diverse landscapes.
“For seasoned hunters and newcomers alike, this is a prime opportunity for everyone to experience the thrill of pheasant hunting. We’re excited to expand the pheasant release program and offer hunters a unique chance to connect or reconnect with upland bird hunting in Michigan,” said Adam Bump, DNR upland game bird specialist. “The increased number of rooster pheasants and the addition of new release locations ensure that hunters can enjoy a memorable hunting season.”
The rooster-only pheasant releases will occur Oct. 20 to Nov. 14, coinciding with the pheasant hunting season. All release sites that have an open December pheasant hunting season will have an additional pheasant release in December.
This year, pheasants will be released on 13 state game/wildlife areas throughout southern Michigan:
The number of roosters heard crowing during the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s 2023 spring pheasant crowing count survey was up 30% statewide from last year.
“We documented increased production for most of the state during 2022 brood routes compared to the last couple years, and we also confirmed high reproduction rates while aging hunter-submitted pheasant wings,” said R.J. Gross, department upland game management biologist. “So, the increase in pheasant density comes as no surprise despite the high snowfall this past winter.”
The primary regions holding pheasants showed 19.5 crows per stop in the southwest, up from 14.1 in 2022; 16.6 crows per stop in the northwest, up from 13.7; and 12.8 crows per stop in the southeast, up from 9.7. The count in the northeast, which is not a primary region for pheasants, was 3.3 crows per stop, up from 3.0 last year.
“Current conditions are excellent across the state with adequate moisture this spring and early summer. These conditions should foster insect hatches, which would provide forage to chicks for brood rearing,” Gross said. “Pheasant chicks hatch from early June through late July. Much of nesting success will depend on the weather, and we will more accurately assess pheasant production during our late summer roadside counts, which begin at the end of July.”
Pheasant crowing counts are conducted each spring throughout North Dakota. Observers drive specified 20-mile routes, stopping at predetermined intervals, and counting the number of pheasant roosters heard crowing over a 2-minute period.
The number of pheasant crows heard are compared to previous years’ data, providing a trend summary.
State-by-state reports from across the core pheasant range
June is go-time for ring-necked pheasants.
Winter is way, way back in the rear-view mirror, and despite the season’s brutality across the northern parts of the pheasant range, pheasants were not obliterated from the landscape. Such is the toughness of our favorite gamebird.
And so nesting has begun. As nesting, hatching and raising broods goes, so go fall hunting prospects. Here is our state-by-state report from the core pheasant states. We’ll report again on hunting prospects, as always, at the end of summer, but wanted to give an early peak at what’s happening.
The news is generally good. But one thing to keep an eye on will be summer moisture. While generally dry springtime conditions can be favorable to good incubating and brood rearing, continued and prolonged dry conditions can limit insect life, which is essential to feed and grow chicks. It can also affect habitat.
Here’s where we’re at.
Coordinated By Matt Gottlob, South Dakota State Coordinator
Editor’s Note: Due to its extra in-depth nature, we placed the update for the number one pheasant state last for your perusal.
Aberdeen - Winter was pretty tough up this way this year. Reports of bird fatalities in large numbers on certain tracts of land where people had walked late season hunting or shed hunting this spring.
Bon Homme, Charles Mix, Hutchinson, Yankton Counties - The winter was cold with heavy snow falls resulting in higher amounts of pheasant mortality. However, survival appears to anecdotally higher than expected with surviving pockets of adult birds being observed frequently.
Brule, Buffalo, Aurora and into Eastern Lyman Counties - The area had a long tough winter, starting with heavy snowfall and cold temperatures earlier than usual and continuing well into spring months. Luckily the pheasant population in the area was up from previous years to begin with and they seemed to find shelter belts and cattail sloughs to bring them through the winter much better than expected. Didn’t get the reports of dead pheasants in shelter belts around here as from other parts of the state and have seen quite a few roosters and hens this spring.
Brookings - The winter in the Brookings area was much like other portions of the state, with a lot of snow, wind, and ice. This combination created a challenge for all wildlife. Snow drifts filled in the small cattail sloughs, narrow tree belts and food plots, but the larger cattail sloughs and other larger blocks of winter cover provided thermal cover that was paramount for pheasant survival in a winter like we had. We had birds get through the winter.
Kennebec - Winter was tough in the South-Central part of the state with multiple day-long blizzards that resulted in around 60 inches of total snowfall. Not seeing as many pheasants this spring as in the fall, but they’re still out there where the habitat was able to get them through the winter.
Watertown - In the Northeast the winter was pretty tough a couple of ice storms and the abundance of snow we had definitely had an effect on the birds. However with all the winter cover primarily the big cattail sloughs provided good cover and there was enough wind with the storms it seemed to keep a few spots in fields open for birds to forage.
Woonsocket - Many landowners in the area assumed the winter was hard on pheasants but they made it through fairly well. Actually did not have a significant amount of snow; the drifting made it seem worse than it was. Most importantly, hen survival seemed very high.
Aberdeen - Up to this point in the growing season the habitat is in pretty good shape, carrying lots of moisture over from winter. Although it has been very hot and dry the last 2 weeks and if that continues, will enter into a drought pretty quickly.
Bon Homme, Charles Mix, Hutchinson, Yankton Counties - With conditions being as dry as they are, new CRP plantings aren't growing well enough to provide habitat in adequate amounts. This being the case, the birds will need to rely on habitat zones that were left undisturbed the last year.
Brule, Buffalo, Aurora and into Eastern Lyman Counties - The lack of a lot of spring rain has the nesting habitat off to a slower start than we would like but grass is coming, and hens are initiating nesting.
Brookings - Habitat conditions are off to a great start this spring. There are two sides to the winter we had. Because we had such dry conditions over the past 2 years, we needed the moisture. With the snowcover we had, habitat conditions are off to a good start, it is pretty dry in this area. Have noticed good insect and pollinator numbers, which will be crucial for chicks when broods begin hatching.
Kennebec - Habitat started out the spring growing well with some timely rains, but the rains have slowed now, and the grass seems to be stunted. But many winter wheat fields look spectacular and are growing quite well. We’re lucky in this area to have many acres of winter wheat so are hopeful that the birds will find those fields to nest in for the time being. The southern reaches of my coverage area were hit was emergency haying of CRP last August and there wasn’t much regrowth throughout the rest of the fall.
Woonsocket - Most of the habitat that is in CRP or like programs look to be ok even though the drought is taking its toll on other grasslands like pasture and hay ground. The safe nesting areas of CRP should still produce quality habitat as the native grasses and forbs can handle the stress of drought better than introduced species that make up most pasture and hay ground in this area.
Aberdeen - Nesting conditions are good, but we are at the point where we need to start getting some moisture. There were bugs flying around everywhere right away but have noticed a sharp decline in those since it started drying up.
Bon Homme, Charles Mix, Hutchinson, Yankton Counties - With the dry conditions, alfalfa (which can serve as a nesting source) is getting cut early because it's drying out early. This coupled with the limited new growth may make suitable nesting conditions sparse this year.
Brookings - Have yet to see any broods or hear of many broods on the ground so far, but nesting conditions are favorable for pheasants. Conditions have been pretty dry but grasslands in this area are really looking good. Everything seems to be just a little behind this year, so expect to really start seeing broods in the next week or two. There should be some good insect forage for chicks when they hit the ground.
Kennebec - Without rain, still faring well in terms of nesting conditions. Winter wheat is growing well, and Lyman County is one of the top producers of winter wheat in the state so we have that to fall back on even though our grasses may not be coming through as well.
Watertown - Spring conditions are looking really good now, but we do need to catch a nice rain sometime soon.
Aberdeen - Have not seen a brood yet in my area but am hearing reports of people seeing them. Overall, had a lot of birds up here this past year and there were plenty of birds that made it through the winter. Seeing birds everywhere (good or bad) over the winter and spring, still seeing them out and about now. Spring conditions had been favorable up until the last couple weeks. If we can catch some moisture and lose some of the heat, should be sitting good going into fall 2023.
Bon Homme, Charles Mix, Hutchinson, Yankton Counties - Dry weather overall isn't necessarily a bad thing as long as there is nesting habitat present and dew/moisture from arthropods for broods to survive since pheasants don't need a lot of moisture (generally speaking). In contrast, a cold wet spring can often lead to nest failure and low brood survival due to the inability to properly thermoregulate at a young age. With this in mind, there is hope for demographic maintenance if not a population increase for this upcoming year.
Brule, Buffalo, Aurora and into Eastern Lyman Counties - Haven’t seen any broods yet. Have bumped some hens off nests in the field. Temps in the area are high and could use some rain to keep the grasses coming.
Brookings - Have not seen any broods yet, but weather conditions have been good for nesting so far. Have had a few pop-up storms with a little bit of hail but nothing major.
Kennebec - Have not observed any early hatch broods yet, but have seen some nests while out in the field. Haven’t gotten much rain at all this spring, but on the plus side that can also mean that nests are not drowning out. Last spring, the dryness helped a lot of broods hatch and brought on a great hunting season filling the sky with birds. Hopefully we can see that again this fall!
The adult winter survival rate has definitely helped numbers given the drought’s impact on brood success, but worried as the drought’s severity has increased over the last few weeks. Was worried last year though, and it turned out to be a successful year. The cold did linger this year but not into prime nesting season.
Pheasant Fest is returning to South Dakota next year. It’s the second time Sioux Falls will host the three day event.
DENNY SANFORD PREMIER CENTER
SIOUX FALLS, SD
The last time was back in 2018.
Organizers kicked off today’s announcement with a bang.
Dozens of hunters took aim at shooting clay pigeons this morning at Hunter’s Pointe near Humboldt.
It’s to help promote Pheasants Forever’s big three day event next year.
“We are absolutely ecstatic to have National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic coming back to South Dakota,” Pheasants Forever Jared Wiklund said.
But today it’s about having fun.
“It’s just away to bring out all of our sponsors and donors and members and chapters,” Wiklund said.
By Scott Linden
Phasianus colchicus took the Midwest by storm a hundred years ago, and the ring-necked pheasant is still the king of game birds for most hunters. We roam the mid-section of our vast nation in search of the elusive ghost of our dreams. And while getting there may be half the fun, being there is when the rodeo really begins.
The Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland said it best: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” How do you navigate the millions of acres of public land and walk-in ground just waiting for you to drop the tailgate and unclip your dog’s leash? Rather than wandering, perplexed as a hunter on Rodeo Drive, here’s how to map out your pheasant quest.
It starts with a destination, dictated in large part by how far you’re willing to travel. If you know how to read, you’ve already got an idea of where you want to go. Each region has sweet spots handed down from father to son, shared by multi-generational groups and “discovered” by newbies dazzled by clouds of birds darkening the sky at the end of a cut-cornfield drive. My revelation came at the nub of an ancient shelterbelt in South Dakota. It was being pushed by two friends while I shivered, hopes high and temperature low. Out of the mist rose a mob of what I thought were blackbirds they were so numerous, until a roar of wings and telltale cackles broke the still air.
I missed twice, shook my head, reloaded and dropped a late riser whose technicolor pelage vibrated against the pristine snow even when stilled by my shot. That was a good year, but even a bad year in South Dakota is better than most other places combined.
Other states have their proponents and having explored them all after three decades roaming public land, I understand the allure of each. Northeast Montana, Iowa, Nebraska, and western Kansas are all strong contenders for the bronze and silver medals. Not coincidentally, most of those states have sophisticated public-access initiatives to help hunters chase ringnecks across vast prairies and through shin-tangling thickets. “Walk-in” programs are the golden key that unlocks the door; start your quest there, long before you fill the tank and crate the dog.
Dickinson and Mott, North Dakota are worth your attention. They’re lower-key, smaller towns with fewer amenities than most, but surrounded by public access. Williston’s oil boom has subsided and lodging options are myriad. The rolling hills beckon, if you don’t mind the mix of drilling and development alongside your new favorite cover. Plentywood and other small towns in northeast Montana along the “High Line” are also on my radar. Western Kansas towns including Norton, Goodland, Jetmore and Osborne are podium-contenders, offering a 365-day license bargain and warmer late season weather.
Like the Oscars, I’m saving the best for last, but the supporting cast of South Dakota towns east of the Missouri River offer plenty of opportunity. Watertown, Aberdeen, Brookings, and Redfield welcome hunters and have plenty of public access. South Dakota counties with the highest pheasant harvest numbers include Brown, Beadle, Brule, Lyman, and Spink. Each has charm, varied habitat, and sometimes, more than you bargained for. Circumnavigating a small pond near Watertown, my dog’s GPS collar sounded “point.” The cattails were so thick I had a hard time seeing him, quivering, literally at my feet. The wirehair’s hunched-up posture should have alerted me—he had pointed a raccoon. Everyone came out of that tussle unscathed; another bird soon filled my vest, and all was right in the world once again. We celebrated with a visit to the Terry Redlin museum.
I’ve shot (and missed) birds near every town and in every county on this list and can honestly recommend any of them. But for me, Huron, South Dakota is Ground Zero for ringnecks. Along with high harvest numbers (10 birds for an average 4.5 days hunted in pandemic year 2020), Beadle County’s seat has an ace up its sleeve: 124,000 acres of public access within 60 miles. It’s at a nexus of federal, state, and private land open to hunters. There’s a diverse mix of habitats from tall-grass prairie to marsh, shelterbelts to creek bottoms and cropland. Add creature comforts including retail, restaurants, campgrounds and hotels. The gravy on your spuds is a savvy- yet-small-town culture that embraces pheasant hunting, visiting hunters, and their economic benefits. They even celebrate every November with a Ringneck Festival and Bird Dog Challenge, should you want a little friendly competition and camaraderie. There is a sense of community not found in bigger towns and urban centers—a breath of fresh air many of us seldom get in the workaday world.