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SD Game, Fish, and Parks adopts new state pheasant action plan

South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks commissioners have adopted a five-year management plan for pheasants.

Despite objections from some hunting advocates, that plan does not include returning to a brood count.

Commissioners met at Custer State Park for their monthly meeting to make finalizations on proposals, hear petitions, and host a public form.

One area of focus was the adoption of a new five-year pheasant action plan. The plan includes continuing a new method of gathering pheasant data that some believe is not accurate.

The department switched to hunter surveys in 2019 instead of conducting a traditional brood count. For over 50 years, department staff would drive rural routes annually to count groups of pheasants.

The department reported receiving over 30,000 survey responses from hunters this year.

Many South Dakotans gave public comment on the plan asking the department to bring back the brood count. Some said the new survey favorably presents pheasant numbers to encourage more out-of-state hunters.

Robert Whitmyre is a GFP Commissioner. He said he has watched the new hunter-based survey method develop since 2019 into a more accurate brood count system.

“Here’s our measure that we are headed in the right direction, and it's great to see folks be able to get out there and utilize that and enjoy South Dakota for what she has to offer,” said Whitmyre.  

Alex Solem is a Senior Upland Game Biologistwith Game, Fish and Parks. He presented the annual harvest report to the commission.

“Some really good news is we are actually up in pheasant harvest from last year. Our total pheasant harvest was just over 1.2 million birds. That was an increase of 7.3 percent,” said Solem.

He said it’s not just pheasant numbers that are on the rise.

“We had about 135,000 total pheasant hunters which is an increase of six percent. Residents, we had about 57,000 resident hunters, again, a slight increase from last year. And then nonresidents, we had 77,000, almost 78,000 nonresident pheasant hunters,” said Solem.

The commission unanimously accepted the department’s Pheasant Action Plan, which extends through 2028.

Evan Walton is an SDPB reporter based in Sioux Falls. Evan holds a Master’s in English Literature from Southern New Hampshire University and was honorably discharged from the United States Army in 2015, where he served for five years as an infantryman.