From the Black Hills to the Eastern Plains, the familiar sound of shotgun shots can usually be heard in the distance. It’s hunting season and we’re starting to enter my favorite time of year: pheasant season.
When I was little, my grandmother Dorris used to take me pheasant hunting. I also hunted a lot with my father, an outdoor enthusiast. They are both gone now and what remains are the precious memories of those hunting trips.
In honor of my father and grandmother, I made it one of my priorities to create opportunities for more young people to enjoy the outdoors. This Sunday ends the hunt for young pheasants. Other youth-focused outdoor programs include our Hunter Mentorship Program and the Youth Trap and Photo Contest as part of our Nest Predator Bounty Program.
Each of these programs teaches young people valuable skills. They also pass down South Dakota’s rich heritage of hunting and life on the land from generation to generation.
We know that South Dakotas love to hunt and fish. About 20% of state residents purchase hunting licenses each year. We have numerous reserves, hunting lodges and over a million acres of public access and hunting areas. The variety of opportunities also makes South Dakota a prime destination for itinerant hunters. Each year, hunting contributes approximately $ 500 million to the state’s economy. Hunting is serious business in South Dakota.
This is why I made habitat conservation and rehabilitation the cornerstones of my Second Century Initiative. For over 100 years, South Dakota has been the premier pheasant hunting state. The Second Century Initiative will ensure that we maintain our status as a hunter-friendly and highly coveted place for out-of-state hunters. It will also protect the hunt in the state for generations to come.
The work of the Second Century Initiative is already bearing fruit. A recent survey by the Department of Hunting, Fishing and Parks (GFP) found that pheasant hunter satisfaction in 2020 was the highest in a decade. Over a million pheasants were harvested in the 2020 season, an average of around nine birds per hunter.
This success stems from GFP’s solid investment in housing and access programs. About $ 22 million has been allocated in 2021 for this program alone. Our habitat specialists work with landowners to restore tens of thousands of acres so that all bird populations can thrive. Habitat restoration remains the best long-term solution to ensure the sustainability of pheasant populations.
This is especially important for residents of that state, who will have their own pheasant hunting season from October 9 to 11. After that, the traditional pheasant hunting season opens to all hunters from October 16, 2021 to January 1. 31, 2022.
If you’ve never hunted pheasant before, I strongly encourage you to give it a try.
There is something in the crisp air and the sound of the grass crunching under your feet. The energy of your hunting dog flushing out these beautiful collars. This excitement builds until the first bird appears, you raise your shotgun, and calmly pull the trigger. Then comes the inevitable joke between you and your hunting buddies about who really got the better shot.
Whether it’s bonding with friends or strengthening relationships within your own family, pheasant hunting has a lot to gain.
Don’t miss your chance to make these memories this season.