Hunting Pheasants in South Dakota
By Senator Mike Rounds
Across the country, the month of October is a time to carve pumpkins and watch the leaves change color. While I enjoy participating in these activities with my family, for us, the highlight of the month has always been the opening weekend of the pheasant hunting season. I have lived most of my life in central South Dakota, which is home to some of the best pheasant habitat in the country. Huron, where I was born, actually bears the nickname “Ringneck Nation.”
For our family and for many families in South Dakota, the opener is almost as big of a reunion as Christmas or Thanksgiving. I was born on the opening weekend of pheasant hunting season in 1954, and my dad still reminds me that I messed up his hunt. I remind him that was his fault! My kids all hunt, and some of our older grandkids are looking forward to taking the hunter safety course. Until then, they still join us in the field and help the dogs chase down birds. It’s fun to see them get excited about a sport that is such a big part of growing up in South Dakota.
Pheasant hunting in South Dakota is not only a deeply-held tradition for those of us who live here, it also plays an important role in our economy. People travel thousands of miles just to spend a weekend hunting pheasants here. It provides us with a unique opportunity to showcase our state and highlight everything we have to offer. According to the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish & Parks (GFP), hunting generated $302 million in wages for South Dakotans in 2011 and created just over 11,000 jobs.
While hunting is a fun sport, it also plays a big role in land conservation. The pheasant habitat found in South Dakota is exceptional because farmers and landowners practice proper land management and conservation. It is important that we take care of the prairies and grasslands to make sure they remain in great shape for future hunters to enjoy. I believe the Conservation Reserve Program is a very important part of this effort.
While I always enjoy the hunt, some of my favorite parts of these days come before and afterward when family and friends get together to share stories and a meal. Hunting is as much about tradition and comradery as it is about the sport. It’s a time for us to get out of the house or office, ignore the digital distractions of our daily lives and enjoy some fresh fall air with our friends and loved ones. I hope everyone who takes advantage of the fabulous South Dakota pheasant hunting this year will have safe and successful hunts!