By Dan Bechtold
This is an exciting time of year. It is hunting season.
Pheasant hunting statewide opens on Oct. 16. The season has been extended again this year to Jan. 31, 2022. Shooting hours all season start at 10 a.m. until sunset.
Dillon Bates, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks conservation officer in Winner, is looking for a good pheasant season this year.
Bates said it was looking good coming into the spring then the drought hit and changed everything. He said a lot of chicks were lost during the drought. Pheasants eat bugs the first six weeks of their lives. “No bugs means no pheasants,” explained the conservation officer. “I did see a lot of late hatches this year so hopefully some of those survived,” he said.
Bates is still optimistic it will be a decent year for bird numbers. “Some of the areas held birds a lot better than others. It has been kind of spotty,” he said.
Historically, northern Tripp County has more birds and he says this seems to be true this year.
Bates noted places with cattail slews and water held the birds better.
GFP no longer does brood counts where they count the number of birds in a certain area.
In August, Bates spent a few mornings driving around. “It was not good,” he said. “In the past when I would drive north of town I would see tons of pheasants and this time I saw 1 or 2.”
With the drought farmers are scrambling to hang onto every piece of grass which could have a negative impact on pheasants.
Bate has been the conservation officer here for a year. He serves the four county area of Tripp, Todd, Gregory and Mellette County.
What asked what he looks forward to this year he noted he was not sure what to expect.
COVID-19 is still hanging around.
Last year a lot of hunters did not come due to COVID-19. Now that there is a vaccine available and many people are fully vaccinated there should be more hunters. “I think we will have more hunters than last year. I do not think as many will sit out due to COVID. A lot of them that sat out last year will be itching to get back out,” said Bates.
He checked with some hunting lodges in the area and they reported good numbers coming into the season. “I think it will be busy year,” he said.
When asked what he wanted hunters to know when they come here he said to be respectful of private property. If hunting road right of ways know where the road right of way ends. Know what birds you can shoot and what birds you cannot shoot.
Make sure to ask permission if you are going to go on someone’s property.
Bates stresses that hunters should know the rules and requirements of transportation of birds.
He explained a lot of guys go hunting with their buddies and only one person brings the birds to town to the processing plant.
The rules are the bird is tagged with the name of the hunter, the hunter’s address, the total number of species of birds taken, the date the bird was killed and signature of the hunter.
Bates also reminds hunters they cannot shoot within 660 feet of farms, livestock, school, and homes.
He said a lot of farmers are putting up signs about the 660 feet limit. Bates has signs in his office if landowner would like them.
The conservation officer continues to receive calls from hunters seeking information of pheasant season. Each day he gets one or two calls from individuals wanting to know bird numbers and where they can go to hunt.
Tripp County does not have a lot of public land for hunting. So, Bates would like to get more people interested in signing up for walk in areas. They will provide more public lands for persons to hunt.
Bates explained GFP has another program called controlled hunting access but he says is more restricted that a walk in area.
He says soon GFP will be getting a private lands biologist that can work with landowners. This person will be stationed in Chamberlain.
Bates is hoping for good weather for the opening weekend. “I am looking forward to the season and I hope everyone has a successful year and enjoys the hunt.”