February 21, 2018
2010 Pheasant Outlook

2010 Pheasant Outlook

January of 2010 had South Dakota residents concerned with winter kill on our pheasant population. Several blizzards found us looking out the front door of the lodge to 1o foot deep snow drifts. Reports from the county workers in charge of plowing our roads were not ideal. Stories of scraping frozen roosters off the highway every couple of feet had us all petrified that we wouldn’t have a healthy population going into the nesting season. At one point I was willing to guess that our population was down nearly 50 percent. One factor that helped get a few of our birds through the winter was food plots that we left stand through the winter to help starving birds have access to food as well as much needed cover.

We went into the spring doing our usual prep work to do what we could to keep the birds we had. Our trap line consists of running several dozen box traps as well as leg hold traps to help control our nest predation.  Raccoons, possums, skunks, coyotes, and fox are our main targets. A simple formula to demonstrate how much of a factor nest predation has on the pheasant population can show how much predator control can help. The average pheasant nest contains 10 to 14 eggs. For the sake of my math skills we will stay conservative and go with 10 for our calculations. We trapped a total of 75 raccoons, 50 skunks, 5 possums, 18 coyotes, and 2 fox. (Also 130 coyotes we called in and harvested this winter that we will not factor in). That is a total of 150 predators. Conservatively we can comfortable say that each one of these predators would have been responsible for the destruction of one nest. Here is the formula as follows.

(10 eggs) X (150 predators)=1500 pheasant chicks

According to a study done by South Dakota State University 50 percent of successful hatches will make it to the next nesting season. 50 percent of the chicks out of that hatch will be hens that will raise another 10 chicks. Here is the formula for the next nesting season.

(1500 chicks) X (50 percent hens)=750 hens

(750 hens) X (50 percent survival rate)= 325 hens

(325 hens) X (10 eggs) = 3250 chicks going into the next season.

There are many factors that are not included in these simple equations. The number of one destroyed nest per predator is a very low assumption. If the math changes to 2 nests or 3 nests the number of chicks becomes exponential. Not to mention that each one of the predators controlled will not have a litter of nest destroyers themselves. It doesn’t take long to crunch the number to demonstrate how important controlling predators is.

As we entered the hatching season we saw some very favorable conditions for our hatch. Timely rainfall delayed haying and provided moisture for chicks at critical times for their survival. Typically we have hatches of 5-8 chicks whereas this season we saw groups from 10-15. We had multiple groups living in the back yard of the lodge with up to 19 chicks to one hen! With a hatch like that we felt confident that we would have yet again an exceptional pheasant population. Game Fish and Parks reports once again claimed a 3  percent overal climb in the statewide population.

As we stepped into the field opening day the sky turned black with roosters as we had hoped. We are going into the winter with a thriving population and look forward to doing even more work on our predators, food plots, habitat, and management of our hunting pressure. This fall finds us busy digging small water holes, planting suitable grass for habitat, and prepping soil for more food plots for next fall. We look forward to seeing even more birds next year and can’t wait to share them with everyone.

Clayton Miller

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One Response to “2010 Pheasant Outlook”

  1. I am very thankful to this topic because it really gives up to date information ‘;”

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Spring for Miller Mathews Outfitters means two things, sheds and turkeys. This year we seemed to find plenty of both. Teaming up with Kyle Metzger of Newcastle, Nebraska, and Trent Siegle or Dwight, Kansas was another awesome season. We set out to film a short highlight video of how we hunt turkeys and ended [...]