SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Pheasant season starts Saturday in South Dakota, with hunters from Aurora to Ziebach counties hoping to bag their limit of birds.

A year ago, hunters harvested nearly 1.2-million pheasants in South Dakota.

“I would say that this year is going to be just as good, if not even better, than last year and we had a pretty good year last year,” South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Communications Manager Nick Harrington said.

Game, Fish & Parks Communications Manager Nick Harrington says numbers are strong despite a tough winter.

“We had those good spring rains, we had those timely conditions. We’ve got some models that can predict based on the temperatures, based on the rainfall, based on the habitat conditions, what we can expect each year,” Harrington said.

Most importantly, they’re seeing pheasants.

“Saw a lot of broods this summer, which is good. You look for brood size, and we saw a lot of birds in those broods. We had awesome nesting cover, we had awesome brood rearing cover, so all things are looking very good and the habitat right now on the landscape is absolutely terrific,” Harrington said.

Harrington says conservation officers also heard good things during last weekend’s resident-only hunt.

“Across much of the state, folks were saying they saw a lot of birds, they were getting a bird or two per hunter. That’s all really good indicators for what we do to know that yep, everything’s looking really good for this season, so basically from springtime to now all reports are positive,” Harrington said.

“Saw a fair amount of roosters and for public ground, I was really impressed,” hunter Bob Matzke said.

Bob Matzke is an avid hunter, spending every weekend chasing pheasants, and he has high expectations this season.

“Unless you get someplace that they don’t have crops or water, I think it will be a good year, I’ve seen a good number of birds,” Matzke said.

“This is our time of year. This is when we roll out the orange carpet we like to say, we welcome visitors from across the country, across the world,” Harrington said.

The traditional pheasant opener in South Dakota is Saturday, with daily shooting hours of 10 a.m. central time until sunset. The season closes January 31, 2024.