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Posted 8/26/21 (Thu)

The 2021 pheasant brood surveys were similar to last year with a slight decrease. Compared with the 2020 survey, broods per mile was 12% higher, young pheasants per mile were 17% lower, and total pheasants per mile (1.9) were 6% lower.

Compared with the previous 5-year average, total pheasants per mile were 11% lower.

Compared with the previous 10-year average, total pheasants per mile were 45% lower.

Weather patterns were mixed this year with an average winter, but extremely dry conditions from last fall through this spring and summer. Average brood sizes were smaller this year indicating low chick survival.

Prairie grouse (prairie-chicken and sharp-tailed grouse) spring lek surveys showed a 63% increase in breeding males compared to last year (71% higher for prairie-chickens and 28% higher for sharp-tailed grouse) which is 70% higher than the five-year average and 42% higher than the long-term average. However, due to drought conditions and poor nesting and brood rearing conditions, we expect that grouse chick survival was low.

Habitat conditions are poor to good this year because of drought conditions over the fall, spring and summer. Grass cover is poor to good and food plots and pollinator plots are poor to good. Some emergency haying of CRP was done due to drought-induced low livestock forage supplies. Most prairie wetlands are dry.

Overall, bird hunting should be similar to last year, but still lower than our long-term averages. We continue to manage about 7,000 acres of CRP grassland, 700 acres of food plots and pollinator plots, many shelterbelts and over 60,000 acres of Walk-in Hunting lands. So, with a good dog and a willingness to put in some serious time and miles, hunters should enjoy another year of bird hunting here at Lower Brule.

Please check this website for possible COVID-19 restrictions. As of this writing all areas are open for hunting but that could change depending on infection rates.

Also, please purchase your licenses on-line or by phone and we ask that you not visit the Wildlife Department in person unless necessary. If you need to visit, please wear a face mask, practice social distancing and use provided hand sanitizer. The office will be open on weekdays and Saturdays (October 2 – November 27) from 8 – 4:30.