Is South Dakota just hype?

carptom1

Well-known member
Random guys would don camo and hunker in my ditches 20 years ago and pass shoot the birds coming back in to roost…a buddy of mine made an igloo and did the same thing…it was a thing! Birds galore…it was like having 6 or 8 babes crawling all over you…hard to concentrate! Too much of a good thing?
They’re pre-seasoned…I like the ones injected with the butter/garlic marinade! 🤣. True statement, I think a million or more are released by preserves, and private landowners probably release a big # as well, they don’t have to report unless they’re a preserve. These are guys that can’t afford to leave lots of acres in habitat, so they buy roosters for $15-18 apiece and put them in strips of corn or we’ll defined food plots the morning before the hunt. But where you see habitat, there’s wild birds, some places have more than others based on weather. But when a group of 12-20 guys with no dogs arrive, and shoot limits, they’re shooting mostly released birds. 85% of flushed birds are roosters…hmmmm🤣🤣🤣🤣
Here we go again. I have been on here a dozen years and about this time of year it never disappoints. So question, do you pick the flavor when you buy your license online? I can’t seem to find it and have just been getting plain ones.
 

benelli-banger

Well-known member
Yes, you have to pre-order online; I like the mix, which you can get if you purchase your limit of 15. Zesty Italian is good, too! The pass shooting is true—really pissed me off to have them in camo, hunkering down in my ditches…made for very unsafe conditions, I had to pass on more than a few roosters. But technically they were legal, not terribly intelligent, but legal.
 

carptom1

Well-known member
Yes, you have to pre-order online; I like the mix, which you can get if you purchase your limit of 15. Zesty Italian is good, too! The pass shooting is true—really pissed me off to have them in camo, hunkering down in my ditches…made for very unsafe conditions, I had to pass on more than a few roosters. But technically they were legal, not terribly intelligent, but legal.
Too funny. Every year someone swears that the fish and game releases millions of birds. One year a guy said his brother or his uncle daddy witnessed a state truck releasing birds as he drove down the road. There is a guy north of me here that I buy birds from sometimes that knows all about it. 🤣. I put up with it because his birds are decent but he is kind of a chucklehead.
 

A5 Sweet 16

Well-known member
Per GF&P data, preserves have released around 500,000 birds a year recently, of which 250,000-300,000 are shot. My guess is that other private landowners release less than 100,000 and also shoot roughly half of them. I presume the vast majority of released birds that don't get shot die relatively quickly of other causes. SD hunters have shot roughly 1,000,000 WILD roosters a year for the last 9 years. No other state has come close to that recently. (No....preserve birds are not included in harvest estimates.) If my thinking is right, released birds account for about 20% of all pheasants shot in SD. The State of SD releases zero pheasants.

Many of you have heard me say this before. I've hunted SD public land almost exclusively for 41 seasons, very avidly. I shoot what some people would consider quite a few pheasants. I've shot a total of 4 pen raised birds on public land. 3 were about 6 years ago in 2 consecutive days after a Pro Pheasants group had released a few in the area for a youth hunt. The 4th was last season near a piece of private ground where a guy releases some birds.

There's plenty of hype surrounding SD pheasant hunting, but it's far from JUST hype. The birds are there. Plenty of them. Wild ones. My educated guess is right now we're in the 7-9 million range. No other state comes close to that either. I really haven't noticed any severe population changes on public land. Hunting them can be extremely challenging sometimes. And I think the average hunter is becoming less & less experienced, simply because he/she lives (on average) further from the places pheasants live. They're not able to hunt as often & are generally a little more disconnected from the outdoors. Plus, some people are introduced to hunting via pen reared birds. They master those :cautious: , then decide they'd rather hunt wild ones & are surprised (discouraged) by how difficult they can be. The difference is simply night & day.

Here's a video of a disgusting flare nare pseudo rooster. :ROFLMAO:

 

gimruis

Well-known member
I don't think that anyone who has hunted SD would disagree that is has more wild pheasants than any other state. That's not really refutable, even with the loss in habitat. However, there are items to be weighed, which others have already mentioned. One, the season is now open through January. I don't know any other state with a season that long. I prefer winter-type hunting in colder temps as opposed to summer-type hunting when its 75 degrees out.
On the negative side, there are definitely more hunters. More pheasants are inevitably going to attract more hunters, and SD is all about marketing it. They've purposely stopped doing road side counts to avoid showing how much bird numbers have dropped. This funding is now spent almost solely on marketing.
The thing that really peeves me is the limitation of hunting days as a non-resident. You can only hunt 5 consecutive days or 10 consecutive days. Other states aren't like that. If you buy a hunting license in Iowa, you can hunt as many days as you want to, when you want to. Same in Minnesota. I don't like hunting for days on end; I prefer to hunt about once or twice a week instead and spread out my days with days of rest in between.
If you've never been there, its probably worth trying at least once.
 

Hutcho

Active member
I don't think that anyone who has hunted SD would disagree that is has more wild pheasants than any other state. That's not really refutable, even with the loss in habitat. However, there are items to be weighed, which others have already mentioned. One, the season is now open through January. I don't know any other state with a season that long. I prefer winter-type hunting in colder temps as opposed to summer-type hunting when its 75 degrees out.
On the negative side, there are definitely more hunters. More pheasants are inevitably going to attract more hunters, and SD is all about marketing it. They've purposely stopped doing road side counts to avoid showing how much bird numbers have dropped. This funding is now spent almost solely on marketing.
The thing that really peeves me is the limitation of hunting days as a non-resident. You can only hunt 5 consecutive days or 10 consecutive days. Other states aren't like that. If you buy a hunting license in Iowa, you can hunt as many days as you want to. Same in Minnesota. I don't like hunting for days on end; I prefer to hunt about once or twice a week instead and spread out my days with days of rest in between.
If you've never been there, its probably worth trying at least once.
I definitely am going to try it one of these days, it's always been on the list. Just weighing the options. As far as long seasons go Kansas is open til the second weekend in February 😁
 

Hutcho

Active member
Yeah probably really close. Good opportunity for a guy to extend his season some though.
 

A5 Sweet 16

Well-known member
I don't think that anyone who has hunted SD would disagree that is has more wild pheasants than any other state. That's not really refutable, even with the loss in habitat. However, there are items to be weighed, which others have already mentioned. One, the season is now open through January. I don't know any other state with a season that long. I prefer winter-type hunting in colder temps as opposed to summer-type hunting when its 75 degrees out.
On the negative side, there are definitely more hunters. More pheasants are inevitably going to attract more hunters, and SD is all about marketing it. They've purposely stopped doing road side counts to avoid showing how much bird numbers have dropped. This funding is now spent almost solely on marketing.
The thing that really peeves me is the limitation of hunting days as a non-resident. You can only hunt 5 consecutive days or 10 consecutive days. Other states aren't like that. If you buy a hunting license in Iowa, you can hunt as many days as you want to, when you want to. Same in Minnesota. I don't like hunting for days on end; I prefer to hunt about once or twice a week instead and spread out my days with days of rest in between.
If you've never been there, its probably worth trying at least once.
Good points as well. The SD non-resident license thing is dumb in my opinion. The non-resident waterfowl license lottery is even dumber.

I've never hunted MN, but lived in IA for 6 seasons. Hunted public ground roughly an hour NW of Des Moines. Good stuff. Early in the season, competition for that public land was worse than SD. But the pressure petered out faster than it does in SD. That said, I rarely have issues getting on public land. Maybe a couple times a season I pull up & somebody's already hunting the spot I wanted. No big deal. I just drive to another spot. That said, I don't hunt the opening bell for the first couple months of the season. Intentionally.

I really enjoy being able to hunt through January. Hardly anyone else is out. If weather is so horrible that pheasants shouldn't be disturbed, I'm probably not out either.
 

BrownDogsCan2

Well-known member
I definitely am going to try it one of these days, it's always been on the list. Just weighing the options. As far as long seasons go Kansas is open til the second weekend in February 😁
Pheasants? No it’s not😁 No wonder your doing so well in kansas lol
South Dakota hat a 3 week longer season ; oct whatever until the end of Jan. Kansas is second weekend in nov. until the end of Jan.
 

gimruis

Well-known member
I really enjoy being able to hunt through January. Hardly anyone else is out.
Ya that would no doubt be a major selling point for me too. I'm not really into the early season hunting in the heat with the crowds and standing crops either.
 

Golden Hour

Well-known member
There are a few different "types" of pheasant hunting that get lumped together under the umbrella of "South Dakota Pheasant Hunting".

Type 1 - Public Land, One Dog, One Man - A lot of guys here on the forum, such as myself, find the most satisfaction hunting alone with the dog on public land. For me, it is the most challenging/rewarding type of hunt. I would include guys who come in groups and exclusively hunt public ground in this type. As A5 mentioned, the likelihood of encountering pen raised pheasants is small.

Type 2 - Private Land, Non-commercial - This is what used to be the standard for many years. While not as common, there are lots of landowners who have the group of hunters/descendants of those hunters come out each fall for a pheasant hunt. Additionally, this would include locals and non-residents who access private ground through personal connections and while there is gifting that occurs, it typically is not transactional and is done with true generosity. It is possible to knock on doors and get permission to these places. Again, it isn't as common as years prior, but it isn't a unicorn either. These landowners are rarely going to be releasing pheasants as there isn't a need or reward for doing so.

Type 3 - Commercial Preserves - Quasi-commercial/Transactional hunt. You pay money and they make sure you get to pull the trigger. Personally, I feel this violates the foundation of hunting as there is never a guarantee in hunting. But, that's me and as a guy with some strong libertarian tendencies, what people do on their own land that doesn't encroach on my freedoms is something I just have to deal with. These are the places where nearly all pen raised/released pheasants are going to be found. And with the exceptional habitat these locations provide, there are likely plenty of wild pheasants around, at least in the early part of the season. Basic math would indicate that after 30 days of 10-20 hunters shooting piles of pheasants, the repopulation with pen reared birds is going to drop the likelihood of a wild pheasant being harvested. And as I alluded before, a pen raised pheasant can end up on public land, but any business minded individual is going to do their darnedest to keep their $20 investment (more like $25 for this coming season from what I've heard) in front of their clients, whether they are a preserve or a landowner who has a couple groups of hunters come through each fall.

That's my basic view of the matter. If you come to South Dakota and hunt public land, maybe knock on a few doors and get permission on private land, you are rarely going to encounter a pen raised bird. If you go to a commercial operation, you will find wild and pen raised pheasants and the later in the season, the scales will be tipped and a person is going to find themselves shooting pen raised pheasants.

So, is South Dakota just hype? That all depends on the type of hunting you'll be doing. Showing up to South Dakota to do a public land hunt and being unfamiliar with the properties you encounter might not be that great of a time if a person is expecting to see pheasants explode from the cattails like locusts. But if a person comes in with the mindset that they will hunt hard and hunt smart, tempering those expectations, there is no doubt that South Dakota offers one heckuva good opportunity.
 

A5 Sweet 16

Well-known member
Some more statistical play for some that might like it. I hear a lot about how pheasant numbers in SD sure aren't like they used to be in the early 2000s, which a lot of people consider the "modern good ole days". That "spike" (if you will) occurred basically from 1999-2012. 14 seasons where 165,000 hunters a year shot 1.67M wild roosters a season (10 birds/hunter/season). But for the last 9 seasons, 130,000 hunters a year shot 1.04M wild birds a season (8 birds/hunter/season), with the last 2 years being above that average in terms of birds shot. So we're really not that far from the good ole days. Way better than it was when I was growing up in the 70s/80s. Lots of people make it sound like bird numbers/harvest are a small fraction of what they were 10-20 years ago. The reality is the annual harvest has only dropped about 38% & birds/hunter/season only 20%. Significant. But not an unholy decrease. If....you allow yourself to play the numbers game the way I play it.
 

Hutcho

Active member
I'm somewhere between #1 and #2. Growing up it was all #2 but as family either passed away, moved away, or just quit farming I have become more like group #1.

I guess the whole reason I started this thread was, you always hear the stories or see pictures and it's so many pheasants you can't see the sun. So even if you scale that WAY down to more realistic numbers it still sounds like really good hunting. I was just curious where the difference is between the overzealous stories and advertising and the real life boots on the ground hunting. I think you guys have nailed it! Sounds about like anywhere really. If you put the work in you're gonna find birds, maybe just more than other places...
 

BrdHntr

Active member
Data always preferred to hype A5! Interesting observation..................liking the glass half full approach! There is no doubt that SD still offers some fine pheasant hunting, for those willing to do pre trip planning, scouting, and ground pounding (was a Huron Pheasant festival team called the Ground Pounders - how appropriate!). a short 3+ months away from hearing roosters crowing to roost, nice sunsets, and an ice cold beer after putting in the daily 6-12 mile jaunt.
 

benelli-banger

Well-known member
Mid-week hunting on public after the first week can be good, and hunting private land with decent habitat is typically good, depending on some factors that are pretty easy to discern with some initiative and computer skills. Rare when I don’t have the opportunity to shoot a limit, and, maybe help a buddy or two get their birds if they’re struggling for some reason.
 

birddude

Well-known member
Don’t want to take anything away from SD pheasant hunting, but you need to know they wild release tens to hundreds of thousands birds each year. I actually think with today’s science all these conservation departments should be exploring a way to seed populations to drive abundance populations. Quail included. It would drive interest and revenue in a big way.
I can't really comment because I've only been there once. But I came away with the feeling that there was no way a wild population of birds could withstand the pressure that I saw. Yes we were in the hyped-up area of the time. that was 20 years ago. Not S.D. bashing because I know from this forum, there is some great hunting there. After a few rough years in K.S. I'm about to go back and see if I can find some!!
 
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