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Pheasant count up 42 percent in South Dakota

 

 

Good news for the thousands of Minnesota pheasant hunters who head west each fall to chase roosters in South Dakota: pheasant numbers there are up.

The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks says its annual pheasant brood survey show a 42 percent increase in the statewide pheasants-per-mile (PPM) index from 2014.

The 2015 statewide PPM index of 3.80 is up from 2.68 last year and 1.52 in 2013. The statewide PPM index is similar to 2011 when hunters harvested 1.56 million roosters.

Here's more from a news release:

“The favorable winter and spring weather conditions for the second consecutive year contributed strongly to another large increase in pheasants-per-mile,” stated Kelly Hepler, GFP Secretary. "This year's population index is more than double the 2013 level when hunters harvested just under one million pheasants. Although the index continues to lag behind the 10-year average due to the extremely high counts from 2005 through 2010, a second straight year of substantial gains in the index is great news for our hunting community."

From late July through mid-August, GFP surveyed 109, thirty-mile routes across the state to estimate pheasant production and calculate the PPM index. The survey is not a population estimate, but rather compares the number of pheasants observed on the routes and establishes trend information. Survey routes are grouped into 13 areas, based on a local city, and the index value of each local city area is then compared to index values of the previous year and the 10-year average.

Survey results indicate that pheasant numbers will again be highest along the Missouri River corridor in the broad regions around Winner, Chamberlain, Pierre and Mobridge. Great pheasant abundance also exists in the James River Valley in the regions near Mitchell, Huron and Aberdeen.

“Habitat continues to be at the forefront of the conversation and is a crucial factor in pheasant numbers,” stated Hepler. “Bird numbers are higher in parts of the state where quality habitat conditions still exist, primarily on grasslands including those enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program as well as fields of cereal crops such as winter wheat. We continue to work in cooperation with the Governor’s Habitat Work Group, landowners, partner organizations and agencies to provide an improved future for wildlife habitat in our state.”

South Dakota’s traditional statewide pheasant hunting season opens on Oct. 17 and runs through Jan. 3, 2016.

State walk-in hunting program gets federal funding, will expand

 

 

Minnesota's walk-in access (WIA) program, which had been on shaky financial ground, will continue.

A $1.67 million, three-year federal grant that funds the program has been awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, officials announced Monday. The grant means hunters in western and south-central Minnesota will continue to have access to more than 22,000 acres of existing WIA hunting land, and will get at least 8,000 additional  acres over the next three years.

Here's the rest of the DNR news release:

“We are thrilled to receive news of this grant award,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. “These funds open up more opportunities for hunters, especially in areas of the state that are predominately privately owned. The funds also help enhance habitat on these lands.”

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced the grant award., which is through the USDA’s Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program, which was authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill to enhance public access to privately held and operated farm and ranch lands, and improve habitat for wildlife-dependent recreation.  

Launched by the DNR in 2011, WIA increases hunting opportunities in western and south-central Minnesota. In 2015, there are 22,800 acres enrolled in WIA across 31 counties. Bright yellow-green signs mark boundaries of the 200 sites. 

The program provides public hunting access to private lands and pays landowners to allow that access. Landowners are paid $10 per acre to enroll their lands in the program. Bonuses are added if more than 140 contiguous acres are enrolled, if the land is within one-half mile of existing state or federal hunting land, or if a multi-year agreement is signed.

WIA sites are open to public hunting from Sept. 1 to May 31, with no additional landowner contact needed. Hunters must have a $3 WIA validation on their hunting license to legally access WIA lands.

In addition to sustaining the WIA program, the  grant provides funds for landowners to enhance the habitat on WIA acres. The grant will also fund a research project through the University of Minnesota to study both landowner and hunter interest and participation in the program. 

Maps of WIA sites and more information on the program can be found at www.mndnr.gov/walkin.

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