A fresh report

jags

New member
My son and I just returned from the Eureka area after a dove hunt. My approach for the trip was three fold....shoot doves, scout deer and pheasants. We had two great dove shoots, filling limits easily. We saw plenty of deer as well.

Now the real bad news. I have hunted the 7,000 acre family farm for 22 years and have had such wonderful times hunting plentiful pheasants and deer over the years. In 3 days of dove hunting and driving the normal country roads including 2 tracks, we saw 7 pheasants. Yes, 7. We drove these roads scouting during all hours of the day including dawn, dusk and everything in between.

Now I understand that all of the crops are still standing and the birds have plenty of places to hide but to only see 7 in 3 days is unbelievable. We typically see and hear hundreds, if not thousands of pheasants as we mill around the abandoned farm but on this hunt it was completely silent. We heard nothing and saw nothing.

It is extremely wet in Eureka. Many of the normal farm roads are impassable due to the water. The harvest will be late this year, as the crops were planted late.

I am interested to see the results of the SD Game & Fish brood counts. The report is quite late in being published this year. I in no way am trying to dissuade anyone from going to Eureka to hunt pheasants this season. I applaud those who are willing to spend their money, time and effort doing what we love to do.

Just an honest first hand report.
 

A5 Sweet 16

Active member
Well, if you were out at all hours in some good looking country & saw nothing & heard nothing......unfortunately it sounds like they've been hit hard there. Hope you're wrong, but either way, nice report. Thanks for sharing.
 

jags

New member
I was in shock and highly disappointed by the lack of pheasants we saw and heard. I think the brutal winter they had out there mixed with the abundance of rain this spring that flooded the nests out really did them in.

We have had only one marginal year out there in recent memory, and that was 2006. That year was super dry. Every other year since the late 90’s, no matter how many guys were in the group, we always scratched out our limit in 5 days. I hope my observations are way off, believe me.
 
your report sounds like SE MN year after year after year. Hope the numbers are better for you in that area. Was hoping you had a better report as we are swinging down from devils lake through the Roscoe area to hunt end of October for a day on our way to Pierre that night. Guess ya never know until you hit the leather on the prairie.
 

haymaker

Active member
We had a very tough winter, worst since 97. It will take a toll, I think the brood report will show that if they release it.
 

Drake1

Member
That is not good news. I was down in south central this past weekend for my annual dove hunt and was shocked by the number of broods I saw. Our area will be up significantly this year. The cover reminds me the way it was in the mid 90’s... many acres of undisturbed pastures and dirty fields everywhere. Early season hunting will be real difficult but late season should be incredible. I will be curious as to what the annual survey shows, something must be up because they have not released it. It’s probably the most young birds I have seen since I have been dove hunting out there. The winter was not as bad there and I think the timing of the spring weather must have given them a window for a successful hatch. It’s depressing when you don’t see the birds... 2 years ago we were wiped out by a hail storm and I remember driving around knowing it was going to be a tough year.
 

jags

New member
I am hoping for the sake of South Dakota tourism that only certain parts of the pheasant belt were hit hard by last years winter and poor nesting success this spring. I am finding it very odd that SD Game & Fish has yet to release the brood counts. My memory tells me that the brood count was always released around the last week of August for the past 20 years.
 

A5 Sweet 16

Active member
I am hoping for the sake of South Dakota tourism that only certain parts of the pheasant belt were hit hard by last years winter and poor nesting success this spring. I am finding it very odd that SD Game & Fish has yet to release the brood counts. My memory tells me that the brood count was always released around the last week of August for the past 20 years.
As inaccurate as the brood survey can be, I think it WILL indicate that only isolated small portions of the state got hit hard. Because the truth is, the winter & spring in most areas just weren't very bad. Wet....but in general not devastating to nesting/brooding.
 

hunter94

Active member
As inaccurate as the brood survey can be, I think it WILL indicate that only isolated small portions of the state got hit hard. Because the truth is, the winter & spring in most areas just weren't very bad. Wet....but in general not devastating to nesting/brooding.
i just hope they tell the truth...i think most of it will be pretty tough.
Also. Sully county had a pretty large hail event.....not good.
i wonder if the delayed report includes/could include some drastic measures for recovery?
 

A5 Sweet 16

Active member
i just hope they tell the truth...i think most of it will be pretty tough.
Also. Sully county had a pretty large hail event.....not good.
i wonder if the delayed report includes/could include some drastic measures for recovery?
Telling the truth: I've never thought they shied away from calling a spade a spade.
Drastic recovery measures: Such as?
 

jags

New member
The 2019 roadside count has been published. -49% in the Mobridge area, 1.38 birds pm. My first hand observations were right. Gonna be a tough year.
 

jags

New member
I was hoping I was wrong as well. The evidence does not lie though. We did not hear the normal cackling after the birds flush in the distance at the abandoned farm like normal, it really bummed me out while we were out there this past weekend. We will definitely still go out there because I have 5 more days on my license but it is looking dismal.
 

Flushedup

Member
Dangit, we gave that area a break last year, because in 2017 it was tough and there were farmers in the Bowdle area that farm for pheasants that said they have never seen so few numbers. Mother nature is not easy. I was really hoping to go back up to our old stomping grounds this year, but will likely head south again.
 

jags

New member
In the past SD roadside counts I do not recall them posting precipitation and snowfall amounts. The snowfall amounts in McPherson County and the eastern portion of Campbell County were significant, thus leading to adult mortality rates.
 

Woollybob

Member
Dangit, we gave that area a break last year, because in 2017 it was tough and there were farmers in the Bowdle area that farm for pheasants that said they have never seen so few numbers. Mother nature is not easy. I was really hoping to go back up to our old stomping grounds this year, but will likely head south again.
We hunt the Bowdle area and did fairly well last year. 2017 was tougher, but we managed. Like I have said previously though, had to abandon our old hunting areas and find new ones that worked for the dry conditions.

That area around Bowdle has always been hard to get a read on from the brood Survey, unless its consistently up or down all around it. If you look at the survey route maps, it sits West of where the Aberdeen routes stop and East of where the Mobridge routes begin. Aberdeen is up 46% and Mobridge is down 49% so decide if you want to take the optimistic or the pessimistic changes in the adjacent area (or average out for no change). It's impossible to tell (from what they report) if the West-river numbers are skewing the Mobridge counts, or if the East of 281 routes are pulling the Aberdeen counts up or down.

We will be out there in 4 weeks for the youth hunt so will have a better handle on it then.
 

A5 Sweet 16

Active member
Would it be asking too much for the GF&P to superimpose the 110 routes onto the online Public Hunting Atlas & label each one w/ the PPM for the year? (Would surely lead to hunting rage, so probably not a good idea.)

I wonder how many of the routes go through “real pheasanty” areas, as opposed to “not so pheasanty” areas. A “pheasanty” route (lots of nice habitat) is bound to be a little more stable year to year, whereas a less pheasanty route is bound to be a little more volatile, especially when talking in terms of percentages. If one of the spots I hunt is usually kind of a so-so spot (good for a bird or 2 once in a while, so worth hunting a couple times a season), maybe it goes from holding 50 birds to 25 – a 50% decrease. But another favorite, hush-hush spot goes from 500 birds to 400 birds – a 20% decrease, but lost 4 times as many birds. Point being, a route indicating a certain rise/drop in PPM could be within a mile of a spot with a vastly different population.

A guy has to remember that the survey is purely a count. How many birds did they count over 3,300 miles of road on what may or may not be the best time to count them (I know they shoot for prime time)? They total the number of birds seen and compare it to last year. It might be an indicator of what’s happening at your spot 10 miles away. It might not.

So many variables. So much to think about & then try to forget about. I’ll get out there & chase them w/ my puppy (4.5 mo old now) 20-25 times this year. My expectation is that the public land I typically hunt will be within +/-20% of last year. Some will have more birds. Some less. I’ll shoot some & miss a couple layups. But I’ll enjoy the 3 month season immensely more than the other 9 months & my puppy Ace will discover his special purpose.
 
we have a place we hunt where we see 400-750 birds every time we hunt it. We've been hunting it since 2012. Lake bed/30acre cattail slough with CRP and grazing ground. It's been dry every year until last year. Still saw 400+ birds in it. Drove by it first wknd of August the water was incredible. usually 3 inches of water in it. over 3 feet this year. will be a different year for sure.
 

jags

New member
Although the bird counts and first hand knowledge of pheasant density is dismal this season, I will still go out there. The heavily saturated ground will lead to certain areas being inaccessible as in normal years, and the late harvest during the early to mid portion of the season will make hunting tough. I took my boys out for the youth season two seasons ago when bird numbers were good and I swore I will never do that again. We saw lots of birds but the birds knew they were safe in the standing corn. I will still get just as excited as I pack all of my gear, watch my Labs jump around in the garage knowing that the hunt is near and enjoy the peaceful drive west to the hunting grounds. One of my favorite things about the drive is seeing the wind blowing the fallen leaves all along the route, and watching the combines in the field harvesting their crop. Great time of the year, I live for it.
 
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