MITCHELL, S.D. -- From new hunting hours and an extended youth season to less preseason data, 2020 is a big year for change in South Dakota pheasant hunting.
In September, the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission voted to move up the start of shooting hours to 10 a.m. for the pheasant hunting season. Traditionally, shooting hours started at noon Central time for the first week of the season, and then opened at 10 a.m. for the rest of the season.
The commission also extended the season for all hunters to Jan. 31, 2021. The season previously ran from the third Saturday in October to the first Sunday in January but will now end on the same date every year.
The GF&P said that the extensions provide additional opportunities for hunters and brings the state in line with other pheasant hunting states like Nebraska and Kansas. Many of the recommendations were made from the state’s pheasant marketing work group.
“It’s very exciting to offer these expanded opportunities to those who want to experience the greatest pheasant hunting in the nation,” said GF&P Secretary Kelly Hepler in a statement.
The GF&P Commission also considered changing the long-standing daily bag limit from three pheasants to four for late-season hunting, effective for the 2021 season, but decided to stay with the current bag limit.
South Dakota has also expanded private shooting preserve opportunities with new small-game permit types and a new $150 fee. The new licenses — either resident small game unrestricted permit or a nonresident shooting preserve unrestricted permit — allow unlimited birds to be harvested, with a few stipulations. The new licenses would only be valid if used in conjunction with an already existing license that authorizes a hunter to hunt on preserve properties, such as a one-day or five-day nonresident license, and then purchase the unrestricted license as an add-on. Another stipulation is that an individual only would be able to use the unrestricted portion of their license if all members in their hunting party have the same license.
Normally, the daily bag limit for pheasants on shooting preserves is 20 male pheasants during the statewide hunting season, and that limit is lowered to 15 per day from the end of the statewide season on Jan. 31 to the end of the private shooting preserve season on March 31.
Earlier this year, the commission also approved a proposal to expand the youth only pheasant season. It was expanded from five days to nine days this season, running from Sept. 26 to Oct. 4.
All of the changes come in the aftermath of the June news that the GF&P was discontinuing one of its most anticipated annual reports: the pheasant brood count survey, ending a 70-year tradition. The survey generally included a pheasant-per-mile index for regions around the state and a statewide snapshot of bird population.
GF&P officials said the report has no impact on what they called the “biological side” of pheasant hunting, meaning how they set bird limits or season dates. Hepler said there was also a correlation between the statewide pheasant per mile index and the numbers of pheasant licenses sold in the state, which becomes concerning when the index is lower.