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South Dakota bird hunting forecast from Pheasants Forever

A well-trained dog retrieves a pheasant for a hunter.

Pheasant hunting is big business in South Dakota. State estimates show that 76,000 resident and 100,000 non-resident pheasant hunters purchase licenses, fuel, food and lodging during the season. The state reports it generates $223 million in retail sales and $111 million in salaries per year.

The opening day of the pheasant season for state residents is October 8.

Matt Morlock, South Dakota's state coordinator with Pheasants Forever, said wildlife managers from across the state are optimistic about this year.

"What I'm hearing over and over again, especially north of I-90, is that the numbers are up, they're looking really good. I'm having some friends of mine that are saying 25 to 40% up on their land," Morlock said.

But pheasants are not the only game bird for South Dakota hunters. Prairie grouse season kicks off on September 17.

Jake Hanson, South Dakota's regional representative with Pheasants Forever, said reports from the organization's chapter leaders and volunteers are cautiously optimistic.

"If I was a grouse hunter, I might explore along that Missouri River on both sides. And don't count out the northeast corner of the state, because there are some hidden gem areas there for sharp-tailed grouse," Hanson said.

Bird hunting is a lot easier with a well-trained dog. Hanson said hunters should ensure their dogs are in shape, and that they have a first aid kit and plenty of water on hand.

"If you haven't been exercising your dog all summer long, it's not too late. But it's critical especially as we look at the forecast here even into September, very warm days coming up," Hanson said.

Pheasants Forever was started in 1982 by a group of hunters who saw the connection between habitat loss and declining pheasant populations. To date, the 150,000-member organization has spent $577 million on nearly 500,000 habitat preservation and restoration projects.

South Dakota hunters looking to double up on grouse and roosters should note the overlapping seasons from mid-October to New Year’s Day.

Joshua is the business and economics reporter with SDPB News.