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I just spent 8 days pheasant hunting in SD last week. Almost every walk in area, CREP area, some waterfowl production areas were cut. Why is that?

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Where was this?  We made a trip to the Jim River Ranch in Redfield yesterday and had a great time. If I could have gotten to the area earlier we would have hit some public land but we ran short on time.

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what areas were you hunting? you have to consider much of the north central parts of the state were in extreme drought and many are still short on moisture.

I have noticed this also though. It seems like on some of the public land they at least tried to mow half and leave half but even the half that wasn't mowed there just wasn't any cover to be found. I am not sure with CREP lands and other WIA areas how they are managed with emergency haying etc. I would be curious to see payouts the GFP pays on some of those properties.

It sure does get frustrating scouting areas and driving to them only to see a bunch of round bails sitting there and 2" tall grass. I don't know if they were managed with an early cutting with expectations that they would grow back and never did because it never rained again.

I will try to reach out to some contacts I have with the GFP and landowners that enrolled in CREP and see what they have to say because I am awfully curious myself as I am seeing way to many public areas that are bare ground.

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15 hours ago, PurpleFloyd said:

Where was this?  We made a trip to the Jim River Ranch in Redfield yesterday and had a great time. If I could have gotten to the area earlier we would have hit some public land but we ran short on time.

You should PM  me next time you come out I will show you how to hunt real pheasants. If you get your dog on too many of those pen raised birds it can cause some issues :)

I was probably just down the road from you would have been fun to walk a field or 2 with you. I was gonna try to meet up with another guy from HSO on Friday but  schedules didn't work out and I wasn't too excited to hunt in the gail force winds.

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It is my understanding that land owners are getting money from the hunting licenses for CREP and WIA's. I don't understand why they should be able to collect the money for enrolling the land, destroy the cover and then profit from cutting.

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I know its frustrating especially when you put in a ton a miles driving to these properties only to find them in poor shape for hunting.

Here is a pic of one example:

IMG_2084.JPG

Here is some more info explaining how the program works:

https://www.fsa.usda.gov/Internet/FSA_File/crepsdfactsheet.pdf

If you note this section:

Quote

Haying and Grazing Haying and grazing are not permitted during the CRP contract period except for emergency or managed haying and grazing purposes, if authorized.

It just seems a lot of that emergency stuff was more than excessive. I get the drought played a role and livestock need feed. But if you drive by many of those properties today there are still plenty of round bales sitting all over the place and every last bit of grass has been mowed down to the ground.

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As a nonresident, we only hunt public lands and it gets quite expensive to spend a week out there. Last year only some of those spots were mowed. This year, most of the spots were mowed. We spent more time driving and looking for spots to hunt than actually hunting. I had well over 700 miles driving around so I know what I saw. Looks like my days in SD may be coming to an end. My money and enjoyment can be better served elsewhere.

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36 minutes ago, simey1 said:

I had well over 700 miles driving around so I know what I saw. Looks like my days in SD may be coming to an end. My money and enjoyment can be better served elsewhere.

I don't dispute anything your saying, I totally agree. I have put on 300 to 500 miles in a day before and I live here, its just par for the course when your trying to find places to hunt. But for me that is also part of the fun. I have so many notes in my hunting atlas that I transfer over every year and I know just about every piece of walk in area in most of the state.

I typically only hunt public land also. And I enjoy hunting public land because I appreciate the challenge that it brings and its super rewarding. Any bird bagged on public land is a true trophy.

I do some private land hunting but I am not a fan of party hunting or large groups. It works but its not for me.

I wouldn't stop coming to SD, and chalk this year up to the drought. But there are still plenty of birds to be found. And with this cold weather and snow the hunting is just going to get better. Good luck.

Do you do all 10 days at once or split up into 2 5 days? You should come back for a late season hunt you might be surprise how much difference it makes.

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We used to split it up, but my son can only get away for 1 trip a year so we do the ten days so we can get both weekends in. We only do

public. We take some pride in working hard for our birds. I don't care for groups or the "canned" approach. Hunting is supposed to be about hunting truly wild birds. Sorry that I can't agree that driving all around and finding cover all cut is part of the fun. We do travel a lot finding new spots, but it was almost impossible this year. That's two years in a row the drought is taking the blame for. How about lack of cover in many areas?

 

 

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Here is the drought monitor as of November:

image.png.95f30d8166ce20b35fd7636ca8cb1aeb.png

Most of that is in the heart of pheasant country. With that said I have shot birds in probably 15+ different counties both east and west river this year and have been pleasantly surprised with numbers so far.

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We have never gone that far west to be in the high drought area. We have always found birds. In the past, poor shooting would be the reason for lower bag limits. This year we had very good shooting. Probably cause we saw lots of single birds, very few groups. We were out a week later than normal and I thought with the freeze, that we would find more groups. I did find lots of bulrushes mowed and tilled. I understand the  WIA's are private land, but to see most CREP and some waterfowl production areas cut seems like a misuse of license money. 

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On 12/5/2017 at 1:59 PM, simey1 said:

We have never gone that far west to be in the high drought area. We have always found birds. In the past, poor shooting would be the reason for lower bag limits. This year we had very good shooting. Probably cause we saw lots of single birds, very few groups. We were out a week later than normal and I thought with the freeze, that we would find more groups. I did find lots of bulrushes mowed and tilled. I understand the  WIA's are private land, but to see most CREP and some waterfowl production areas cut seems like a misuse of license money. 

That map is misleading, as we were in moderate drought up through august all the way to the MN border.  Emergency grazing and haying of CRP/CREP was unfortunate for hunters, but it was needed for the producers.  Land owners who enroll their land in WIA are getting paid very little.  Many tracts only pay $1/acre. 

And on Waterfowl Production Areas, since those are managed for waterfowl, and we had drought, a lot of maintenance was able to be completed on them this summer.  Mowing, bush hogging, and grazing all play a part in grassland management for ground nesting species.

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I just checked and hay is going for between $35 and $55 a round bale out there.  I don't think that includes transportation costs.  That clearly is much more than the rate paid for the conservation programs.  You have to remember that folks that raise stock have tens of thousands of dollars invested in their animals and have spent years working up the genetics to their specifications.  It would have a dramatic impact on a rancher to have to sell off the entire herd because there wasn't enough feed.  I am sure that emergency conditions were present in much of North and South Dakota this year.  What I am wondering is what impact it will have next season on bird numbers.  With the reduction in wintering habitat things aren't likely to get better.

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I understand the farmers dilemma. But I think everyone is getting cheated when license  money for habitat is squandered. I just spent another 10 days in N. Dakota with even worse cutting results.  My first trip was in eastern ND south of 94. Found lots of spots to hunt not too many birds. Tried a little further west, south of Jamestown, lots of good cover and no birds. Went south of Bismark and east of river and most fields cut and no birds. 2nd trip, found a few birds in the eastern portion. Went west of river. Drove past every PLOTS area in the Regent, Motts areas. Every field was mowed. Every Waterfowl production area was mowed. The excuse of a bad spring is kinda like an apology that everyone understands, but the cover is being reduced so much and that groups up the birds so much that the large numbers can't survive the small area that they get reduced to.

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ive been seeing lots of birds piled into cattails. tough going at them alone because they are so spooky but if you can get a group of guys to stay ahead or surround them you can get some birds.

i still plan to get out yet before the season closes this weekend. I am already on withdrawl with this cold spell this last couple weeks i actually dont think chasing them would have been too bad because there was no wind but it would have been hard on the dogs. seeing lots of birds daily out scratching for food so they are surviving the cold. just hope heavy snow and ice stay away for rest of winter.

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17 hours ago, rundrave said:

ive been seeing lots of birds piled into cattails. tough going at them alone because they are so spooky but if you can get a group of guys to stay ahead or surround them you can get some birds.

i still plan to get out yet before the season closes this weekend. I am already on withdrawl with this cold spell this last couple weeks i actually dont think chasing them would have been too bad because there was no wind but it would have been hard on the dogs. seeing lots of birds daily out scratching for food so they are surviving the cold. just hope heavy snow and ice stay away for rest of winter.

The birds seem to be doing good on food where we were hunting.  Most had all soybeans in their crops.  Lots of standing soybean stalks around wet spots that didn't get combined this fall, easy meals for the birds.

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After my Dakota trips this year I decided to go back out to Montana again after a few years away and I got back on birds again. I guess you just have to keep plugging away at it.

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be sure to let the the SD GFP know your frustrations.

 

I had no trouble finding birds through out the season. Some days were hit or miss but I would never consider not going out. Going to be a long wait until October 2018 now. 

 

Hopefully mother nature is good to the birds and more emphasis is put on conservation in the future.

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2 hours ago, rundrave said:

be sure to let the the SD GFP know your frustrations.

 

 

What can the GFP do different in regards to pheasant management? 

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nothing but if you see the reports license numbers were down this year, not significantly but certainly a decline. Its less revenue etc for the GFP. But I also liked not seeing so much pressure on public land this year.

 

I don't have the answers, and I am sure the GFP doesnt either. But if they can offer any sort of discussion to at least start talking about more conservation incentives for land owners or provide more land to enroll in public hunting its a start. With a reduction in licenses there is less opportunities to secure or purchase land to hunt. The more people that let them know they are not coming back I would hope would prompt them to start implementing some other solutions rather than just blaming the weather.

 

Its not doom and gloom but its going to get worse before it gets better. Been trending that way for years. Wont be able to blame the weather forever.

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I'd wager that the GFP is working harder than ever to persuade private land owners to enter into the walk in program or attempt to enroll into various conservation programs.  There are quite a few land owners out there who have attempted to enroll acres into programs, but unfortunately due  acre caps, all but the very best scoring land is denied right now.  Plus with the drought, we're seeing the disappearance of more heavy cover as waters continue to recede from sloughs and operators are able to convert once flooded land back to cropland.

 

And it's no secret that we've lost a bazillion acres of wildlife habitat, but the drought really put a massive dent in chick recruitment early this summer.  I have friends that work both for government agencies and private organizations involved with grassland habitat and they are honestly surprised that chick recruitment was as good as it was given what they were seeing in the field.  But, the more habitat we have, the more we can bolster bird numbers over time and have a better "buffer" against weather conditions.  So many are quick to throw blame at the GFP for something that they really cannot control. 

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