Every year when the third weekend in October rolls around, South Dakota comes alive with hunters looking to enjoy the very best pheasant hunting in the world. The pheasant is South Dakota’s state bird (as far as I know, we’re the only state that shoots our state bird) and blaze orange may as well be our state color.
For my family, pheasant hunting is more than an event, it’s a tradition. Dad took us big-game hunting growing up, but it was my Grandma Dorris who inspired me to love bird hunting. She showed me how pheasant hunters work as a team. She taught me about the tremendous work the dogs do – flushing the birds, finding and bringing them back after they’ve been shot – all with a smile on their face. And Bryon and I did the same for our kids – all great hunters as well.
Visitors from around the country and across the world come to shoot pheasants in our great state, spending more than $175 million annually and supporting roughly 18,000 South Dakota jobs. This year, as South Dakota is increasingly in the national spotlight due to how we’ve responded to the pandemic, we can expect many visitors to come shoot our state bird with us.
After more than 100 years of pheasant hunting tradition, we want to ensure that the second century of pheasant hunting in South Dakota is as fantastic as the first. My Second Century Initiative to expand pheasant habitat is a program that encourages farmers to increase habitat opportunities on their land. Farmers often plant marginal acres just to help make ends meet; this program gives them another option to expand habitat without losing the ability to cash-flow their operations. I’m so grateful to our many partners for their help to raise awareness about these vital efforts.
Hunt for Habitat is an important component of my Second Century Initiative. Through this program, the Department of Game, Fish, and Parks (GFP) raffles off several big game hunting tags, with all of the proceeds going towards habitat. Additionally, you can donate to the Second Century Habitat Fund by going to GFP’s website or calling 605-773-4503.
Let’s keep in mind, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, that pheasant hunting is one of the very best ways that we can enjoy time with loved-ones while practicing social distancing. CDC is clear that time spent outdoors is safer than time spent indoors. And if you’re not 6 feet apart while pheasant hunting, you’re doing it wrong!
So I’d encourage each and every one of you to get out and enjoy our pastime these next few months. The season has been extended this year, so there’s even more time to enjoy it! Let’s get our families outside and mentor some new hunters, just like Grandma Dorris did for me. And let’s all remember to be safe. Enjoy this pheasant season, and I hope to see you in the fields!