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Droughts Effect On Pheasant Hunting Season

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The drought has taken its toll on farmers in the Midwest. But, with such a dry summer, some pheasant farmers are surprised with the amount of pheasants they're seeing in the fields.     

“It's quite a bit better than last year but not like it was 4 or 5 years ago,” said Russell Nelson.

For Nelson, pheasant season means money.

“I've been training dogs all summer trying to get them ready for the guided hunts that I do out here,” said Nelson.

But even with a drought this year, Nelson, a pheasant farmer of 8 years, has seen more birds on his farm in Estelline than last year...       

“Now, that they're taking the corn out, I'm seeing quite a few more,” said Nelson.

Numbers from the South Dakota Game Fish and Parks Department back up what Nelson said. According to the 2012 pheasant survey the amount of pheasants per mile has increased 18% from last year.

Nelson says the warm winter helped but feels if there was more moisture this summer numbers could have been even higher  

“If there isn't a dew one morning a baby pheasant won't make it,” said Nelson.

While hunters in South Dakota should be able to do just fine on the hunt this year, hunters in places where the drought hit even harder will have a tougher time spotting pheasants.  

“The drought didn't hurt us that bad up here,” said Nelson.

States like Kansas have seen a 50% drop in the amount of pheasants according to the Kansas Department of Wildlife.

But, the severe drop in numbers to the south are expected to bring more hunters to South Dakota.   

“Getting more people from the south or from Kansas. I have some people from Kansas who have already booked with me,” said Nelson.  

While the drought hasn't struck some pheasant farmers in South Dakota as hard as corn or soybean producers, one pheasant hunting guide hopes the drought further south will bring more hunters north.

While pheasant numbers in South Dakota are up from last year, the pheasant count is still down 31% from the ten-year average.

Pheasant season starts October 20th and goes until January 6th.
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