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Star Tribune

Dawn of South Dakota's pheasant opener 25 years ago


What were the pheasant hunting prospects in South Dakota 25 years ago this month?

With the state’s pheasant opener a little more than a week out (Oct. 21) and on the heels of dire reports about ringneck numbers, a snapshot of hunts past is worthwhile.

Reports in the Star Tribune on Oct. 10, 1992, from the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks were predicting “another excellent year” owing to brood surveys in late summer. “There is plenty of cover, and last winter was relatively mild, allowing a good carryover of pheasants,” according to the Star Tribune.

According to wildlife division director Doug Hansen:  “We estimated that we had about 5.5 million pheasants last year, more than any other year since 1963. Numbers from this year’s brood route surveys suggest 10- to 15-percent lower population, putting the figure at about 5 million birds. That is still the second-best population total in almost 30 years.”

In a brood report from counts this summer, ringneck numbers statewide plunged 45 percent, with average brood sizes the lowest they’ve been since at least 1949. Ice storms and record snowfall over the winter followed by extreme drought harshly limited the food supply for the game birds and damaged their nesting grounds.

Historically, Minnesota has accounted for nearly 25 percent of hunters from out of state who buy a pheasant license in South Dakota.

Minnesota has its own well-reported pheasant ills. The roadside survey count released in September showed the bird population has fallen 26 percent in the last year, mainly due to a loss of habitat as farmers keep more land for production.

Wildlife area to be dedicated in southwestern Minnesota this weekend

"Risky business,'' by the late wildlife artist James Meger.

This Friday, Oct. 13, the James Meger Memorial Wildlife Management Area will be dedicated at 4 p.m.. near Minneota, Minn., Meger's home town Pheasants Forever and about a dozen other conservation groups and  contributors worked with the DNR to purchase and develop the area.

The new WMA is named for the late James Meger, a wildlife artist who hailed from Lyon County in southwest Minnesota. His artwork helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for conservation.

The ceremony is part of Gov. Mark Dayton's weekend Pheasant Opener in nearby Marshall, Minn.

As part of the weekend ceremonies, on Friday night, the public can join Dayton and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith at a community banquet at Southwest Minnesota State University. The banquet starts at 6 p.m.. with a social hour, dinner and a program featuring the governor as well as local community leaders. Tickets are $30. Call the Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce, 507-532-4484.

On Saturday, Dayton, Smith and participating hunters will pursue pheasants mostly on private land in the Marshall area. (Dayton will hunt public land.) The groups will focus on private land to keep area public lands open for hunters who are not part of the festivities.