The three most important elements of South Dakota Wild Pheasant populations? Habitat! Habitat! Habitat!
Without Habitat wild pheasants succumb to predators, storms, starvation and farm machine operations. Many areas of the United States used to have adequate wild pheasant populations for recreational hunting. Alas, they are becoming rare.
Common natural predators are hawks, owls, eagles, fox, skunks, raccoons, and coyotes. When habitat is insufficient, predators gain advantage as pheasants are forced to congregate in small isolated areas, becoming easy targets. Predators account for much of the loss of nests and adult mortality.
Weather is another major factor affecting wild pheasant populations. Pheasants need protection from raging blizzards, floods, droughts and summer hailstorms. Trees and shrubs, as well as tall dense grass and standing crop residues provide protection from wind related weather hazards.
Inadequate habitat forces some pheasants out into open areas where they are vulnerable. When nesting is limited to ditches and waterways, flooding destroys nests and young broods.
Drought reduces insect populations which is the exclusive diet of young pheasants. Wetlands, potholes and natural springs as well as man made water structures assure adequate insect numbers to support large broods.
The increasing mechanization of agriculture combined with pressure towards high efficiency production has resulted in declining numbers of wild pheasants in many areas. Fence to fence farming, drainage of wetlands, and removal of shelter belts has severely limited the habitat vital to natural wild pheasant populations. Some of us have restored and enhanced the habitat that fosters wild pheasant propagation.
Habitat management at Lone Tree Trails is a year round endeavor. Hundreds of acres are devoted to permanent weather and predator protection. Food plots assure year round nutrition. Farming practices enhance pheasant nesting opportunities. Hunters are frequently awed by our numbers of Natural, Wild, South Dakota Pheasants!