By DIRK LAMMERS | Associated Press

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Pheasant hunters in South Dakota should have a better hunting season this year thanks to an estimated 42 percent jump in the number of birds, state wildlife officials said Thursday.

South Dakota’s pheasants-per-mile index is at 3.8, up from 2.68 last year and 1.52 in 2013. The level is similar to 2011, when hunters bagged 1.56 million birds.

Kelly Hepler, Secretary of the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department, said favorable winter and spring weather conditions for a second consecutive year helped boost the numbers. Hepler said this year’s population index is more than double the 2013 level, when hunters harvested slightly less than 1 million pheasants.

Pheasant estimates are up across the state, with surveys indicating that numbers will again be highest along the Missouri River corridor across Winner, Chamberlain, Pierre and Mobridge.

The Sioux Falls area doubled its average from 1.06 pheasants per mile in 2014 to 2.11 this year. The Aberdeen area had the smallest gain of 17 percent, increasing from 2.74 to 3.21.

Wildlife officers surveyed 109, 30-mile routes from late July through mid-August for this year’s survey, which is not a population estimate. The survey compares the number of pheasants observed on routes and establishes trend information.

___

Follow Dirk Lammers on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ddlammers