Sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts had been holding out hope that after last year’s dismal numbers that a rebound would occur.  

In the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks annual pheasant brood survey the results show a 76 percent increase in the statewide pheasants-per-mile index as compared to 2013.

Officials found an average of 2.68 pheasants per mile, a 76 percent increase from 1.52 in 2013.  Weather was listed as one of the leading reasons for the surge.  Below-average snowfall during the winter and near-average rain this spring likely helped the pheasant population.

The 2014 count is still 53 percent lower than the state's 10-year average of 5.75.

South Dakota GF&P officials get their numbers by monitoring more than a hundred 30-mile pheasant brood routes throughout the state from July 25 to August 15.

While thrilled with the report, Pheasants Forever said in a statement that their focus will be “working with state conservation policy leaders in charting a roadmap to enhance upland habitat in South Dakota for long-term sustainability of pheasant hunting traditions.”

Dave Nomsen, who leads Pheasants Forever’s regional head quarters in Brookings,  says habitat remains an emphasis for the future of the game bird.  “The ‘pheasant crisis’ South Dakota has experienced over the past few years has not been solved. While tough winters and wet springs play a role in population changes, it’s the loss of habitat that’s responsible for the long-term decline of pheasants in the state. And we haven’t yet replaced the 1.8 million acres of grasslands and prairies lost since 2006. Stabilizing South Dakota’s pheasant habitat base will help increase pheasant numbers over the long term.”

South Dakota’s statewide pheasant hunting season opens on Saturday, Oct. 18, and runs through Jan. 4, 2015.