Dakota Country Magazine October 2016 Edition - Page 14

Pheasant downward trend John Pollmann F “According to the report, the amount of CRP in South Dakota could be less than half the 2007 acreage by 2020.” Popular ringneck population reduced this fall Few preseason prognostications elicit a broad band of skepticism, like the numbers found in the annual South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Pheasant Brood Survey Report. Take my father, Jim, for instance. For about half of his life, this 83-year old Bridgewater native has walked fields of small grains during the summer while helping certify seed for the South Dakota Crop Improvement Association. And each year he bases his prediction for the coming pheasant season on how many pheasants -- young and old -- he flushes while inspecting wheat and oats. “That sounds pretty close, but I’d put the numbers lower than that,” he told me, after I relayed the results of this years Game, Fish and Parks survey, which shows a 20-percent decrease in the statewide Pheasants Per Mile (PPM) index compared to last year. “I walked portions Page 14, Dakota Country, October 2016 of 6,000 acres this summer, and I saw two birds. Two. And that includes what I saw while driving to the fields.” On the other side of the coin, you have folks like my good friend, Ben, who found the brood survey to be a bit on the low side. “I’m surprised bird numbers are down,” he said, noting the many miles he drove through the heart of some good pheasant country last summer. “I feel like I saw more the past couple months than I have in a long time.” Anecdotal evidence helps shape our general perception and understanding of just about everything. What we see and experience is what we know. When it comes to generating a view of the “big picture” regarding South Dakota’s pheasant population, however, a real problem emerges. Just like Ben and my father, what Person A knows and what Person B knows are often two very different things. The truth, or in this case a realistic expectation for pheasant numbers heading into fall, is usually found somewhere in the middle. And so it seems we find a certain scientific brand of “happy medium”, courtesy of the work conducted by the GFP. A true population estimate is never made until after a season closes, but the PPM-index generated by the brood survey has historically been an accurate barometer for what the fall will bring. What GFP observes during the summer really is a pretty good indication of the “state of the pheasant” in South Dakota. And what the survey tel ls us this year is that bird numbers are down, as fewer roosters, hens and broods were observed along the 110 survey routes completed in July and early August. Compared to last year, the average brood size also decreased, down by 4.2 percent (5.91 vs. 6.17). And according to the report, the 2016 PPM index of 3.05 reflects not only a 20-percent decline compared to last year but is 41-percent lower compared to the 10-year average (5.16 PPM) and is less than half the modern-day high (8.6 PPM) www.dakotacountrymagazine.com