Published January 01, 2013, 03:41 PM

WILTZ: When will our pheasants come back?

I had one fine time this past year with either a rod or a gun in my hand, and it was sweetened with the presence of grandchildren. There were also trips to new places.

By: Roger Wiltz, The Daily Republic

I had one fine time this past year with either a rod or a gun in my hand, and it was sweetened with the presence of grandchildren. There were also trips to new places.

In recalling my outdoor adventures of 2012, it surprised me when I realized that four of my outings were guided. Two were fishing trips. One was a muskie venture in Minnesota, the other a fishing trip to Saskatchewan’s Reindeer Lake. The hunting escapades brought me to the Mexican border country near Del Rio for aoudad sheep, followed by a quest for elk in New Mexico. All four proved to be challenging and exciting.

Though I enjoy the pursuit of fish and game in new and different places, I can honestly say that my 2012 South Dakota forays were every bit as thrilling and memorable as my nonresident quests. I wouldn’t trade my spring day on Francis Case with Curt and Jerry for a Tanzania cape buffalo hunt. The same is true of 2012 deer hunts with good friends. As South Dakotans, we don’t envy anyone, and that’s the truth!

Speaking of the truth, or should I say the lack of it, I’m going to write about it today. In case you haven’t guessed, I’m talking about our current, soon to end, pheasant season. In preseason press releases, we were told that South Dakota pheasant numbers were up. While bird numbers may have been up in a few isolated areas, the report for the state in general was a long way from the truth.

A midseason newspaper account continued to report that pheasant numbers were up. It then went on to say that the reason hunters weren’t finding birds was that the birds were hiding. Don’t pheasants always hide? Isn’t that their nature? Know why we aren’t finding any tigers in our cornfields? They’re hiding!

We had a hard winter, cold spring, and almost unbearably hot summer with many days passing the 100-degree mark. Bird survival was marginal at best. I can accept that. We cannot control the weather. It’s no one’s fault. Why didn’t our information services report the truth, and then encourage those who come to see old friends to buy a license and see if they can’t find a bird or two?

Do I dare suggest that money is the root of the big lie? Is it better to lie and get the license revenue than to tell the truth and perhaps cut back on those things that can be pushed to the back burner for a year? I think the big lie will come back to bite us. Hunters have told me that they’re not coming back as they didn’t appreciate the misrepresentation.

I believe that our Department of Game, Fish, & Parks knew that bird numbers were down in most areas. I have a question for them. During years when bird numbers were way up, I saw the daily limit go from three birds to four. When numbers were down, I saw the daily limit go from three birds to two. Admittedly it has been awhile. Is this concept now considered to be a poor practice? It seems to me that deer numbers reflect the number of tags issued, making the concept appear to be valid in some areas.

While the bogus report could have come from a number of offices, I have to wonder if it came from a single source. I could make a guess, but I won’t as this column isn’t about guessing. I will hope that this column may stimulate some thought about telling the truth in future.

During the past year, both deer (EHD) and pheasants took a big hit. It has led friends and me to talk about how long it will take for a rebound to take place. Based on past observations, both can come back quickly if conditions are right. The “if” is a big question mark. Some very knowledgeable farm friends think that a second year of drought is a real possibility as long-range weather forecasts aren’t good.

The winter of ’96-’97 really decimated our South Dakota deer herd — especially north of I-90. Those deer came back quickly. Mother Nature made adjustments. Does gave birth to triplets instead of twins. I’m not too worried about our deer. There is enough “seed” out there.

The pheasants are another matter, especially in those areas where one can hunt all day without seeing more than a bird or two. At this time next year, I’d like to say I was totally wrong about the pheasants and what I said today, but I’m thinking the deer will be back before our ringnecks, and that it will take three years of good conditions to bring them back.

* * * * * * * * * *

I have some thoughts on the Christmas season. I just finished reading D-Day by Stephen Ambrose. I wish I had read the book eight years ago when more of our WWII vets were still alive. Oh, but they were magnificent heroes! The carnage was appalling, and at times, I could read only a few pages before putting it down.

On June 6, 1944, when Americans learned that the invasion had been launched, employers sent their employees home to pray. The New York Daily News printed “The Lord’s Prayer” across the front page, and every church in America was packed to overflowing. The New York Yankee starting lineup wore uniforms, but they weren’t baseball uniforms.

Sixty-eight years later, manger scenes are being banned. “Christmas Trees” are being legislated to “Holiday Trees.” This isn’t what those brave young men died for. Let’s do everything in our power to change this season around.

*See you next week.