Invitees worried about the sharp decrease in the summer brood count may take heart: hunters found something to shoot at during last weekend’s non-resident opener:
The South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks reported the opening day yielded between a 1/2 to 1 bird per hunter on Saturday, depending on the location. In the central part of the state, 1/2 to 3/4 birds per hunter were reported, with success coming from food plots and on the edges of standing crop fields, and the most hunters were seen in Lyman County. In the southeast part of the state, GF&P reported high numbers of hunters in Aurora, Miner, Sanborn and southern Beadle counties. Again, 1/2 to 3/4 birds per hunter were reported in those areas, too [Sam Fosness, “Local Hunters See Fair Share of Pheasants During Season Opener,” Mitchell Daily Republic, 2019.10.20].
One Mitchell-area hunter also shot some serious bull:
Considering the wet fields and CRP lands causing a lack of nesting areas available for pheasants, [Andrew] Winthers said the birds were more vulnerable to getting attacked by predators.
But the bounty program Gov. Kristi Noem enacted earlier this year in January — which paid trappers $10 for the tail of every mammal defined as a pheasant nest predator, including raccoons, striped skunks, possums, badgers, and red foxes — was intended to eliminate those nest predators. Winthers said the spike in trappers that the bounty program generated will be extremely vital for this year’s pheasant hunting season. The GF&P reported more than 54,000 tails turned in by the end of this year’s bounty program, which spanned from early January to mid-August.
“The number of guys that went out trapping this year was at an all-time high, and it will be so beneficial for the number of pheasants for this year and years to come,” said Winthers. “I know there were some people in the state who thought it wasn’t a wise way for the governor to spend money, but it will be a huge benefit [Fosness, 2019.10.20].
Winthers may be a hunting enthusiast, but he’s evidently not a science enthusiast. Pretty much every scientific voice that weighed in this year on Governor Noem’s Nest Predator Bounty program said trapping skunks and raccoons will have no significant impact on pheasant populations. Even Game Fish and Parks has admitted the goal of the trapping bounties is family fun, not increasing the pheasant population. There are much better ways to spend state dollars to promote pheasant populations than handing out free traps.
But don’t trouble the Governor’s guests with such scientific talk on Saturday. Noem isn’t one to surround herself with real scientists….