From the Black Hills to the eastern plains, the familiar sound of shotgun blasts can usually be heard popping in the distance. It’s hunting season and we are starting to get into my favorite time of year: pheasant season.
When I was a young girl, my grandmother Dorris would take me pheasant hunting. I also hunted plenty with my dad, an avid outdoorsman. They’re both gone now and what remains are the treasured memories of those hunting trips.
In honor of my dad and grandmother, I have made it one of my priorities to create opportunities for more young people to enjoy the outdoors. This Sunday ends the youth pheasant hunting season. Other youth-focused outdoor programs include our hunter mentoring program and the youth trapping and photo contest for our nest predator bounty program.
Each of these programs teaches young people valuable skills. They also pass down from generation to generation South Dakota’s rich heritage of hunting and living off the land.
We know South Dakotans love to hunt and fish. Around 20% of state residents purchase hunting licenses every year. We have many preserves, hunting lodges, and more than 1 million acres of public hunting and access areas. The variety of opportunities make South Dakota a top destination for traveling hunters, as well. Each year, hunting brings about $500 million into the state’s economy. Hunting is serious business in South Dakota.
That’s why I have made conservation and habitat rehabilitation cornerstones of my Second Century Initiative. For more than 100 years, South Dakota has been the premier state for pheasant hunting. The Second Century Initiative will ensure we maintain our status as a hunter-friendly and highly-coveted location for out-of-state hunters. It also will protect hunting in-state for generations to come.
The work of the Second Century Initiative is already paying dividends. A recent survey by the Game, Fish, and Parks Department (GFP) found that pheasant hunter satisfaction in 2020 was the highest it’s been in a decade. More than 1 million pheasants were harvested during the 2020 season, averaging about 9 birds per hunter.
That success comes from GFP’s robust investment in habitat and access programs. About $22 million has been allocated in 2021 alone for this program. Our habitat specialists are working with landowners to restore tens of thousands of acres for all bird populations to thrive. Habitat restoration remains the best long-term solution for ensuring pheasant populations remain sustainable.
That’s especially important to the residents of this state, who will have their own pheasant hunting season from October 9th-11th. After that, the traditional pheasant hunting season opens to all hunters from October 16th-January 31st, 2022.
If you haven’t been pheasant hunting before, I strongly encourage you to give it a try.
There’s something about the brisk air and the sound of grass crunching under your feet. The energy of your hunting dog flushing out those beautiful ringnecks. That excitement builds until the first bird pops up, you raise your shotgun, and calmly squeeze the trigger. Then comes the inevitable banter between you and your hunting buddies over who really had the best shot.
Whether building bonds between friends or strengthening the relationships within your own family, there is a lot to be gained from pheasant hunting. Don’t miss your chance to make those memories this season.