I was fortunate enough to grow up in a family full of sportsmen and women. While my dad fostered my love for hunting, it was my grandmother, Dorris, who made bird hunting such a big part of our family tradition.
Every pheasant season brings me back to those cherished memories of the hunting trips I had with my father and grandmother. As this year’s pheasant season kicks off, I am reliving these memories and reflecting on our efforts to find ways to ensure that pheasant hunting continues to be a part of South Dakota’s culture for generations to come.
This year looks like it’ll be another strong pheasant season for the state. A mild winter means that lots of hens survived to lay eggs, and our pheasant habitat across the state is on the upswing thanks to my Administration’s efforts. The Department of Game, Fish & Parks is forecasting “lush grasslands and plenty of birds.”
When I took office, one of my first priorities was to establish the Second Century Initiative. This program restores habitat for our wildlife, provides access to that habitat, and raises money for other conservation efforts across the state.
This year also marked the fourth year of my nest predator bounty program. We had more than 2,000 participants through this program last year, many of whom were new or youth trappers. Not only has this program been successful in recruiting new sportsmen and women, it has also benefited our pheasant population through the targeted harvest of nest predators.
Our youth pheasant season, which I extended from five days to nine days in 2020, and our mentor hunting program also help get young people involved in hunting. New hunters of all ages learn more about hunting at our Outdoor Campuses and in fields across the state.
These investments in one of our state’s most popular traditions have paid off. We have the highest percentage in the country of residents who get hunting licenses each year. We’re also one of the most hunter-friendly states in the nation. Over 80,000 non-resident hunters flock to our state every year. Hunting alone generates over $500 million to our state’s economy each year – and that number grows to more than $1 billion when you include fishing and other outdoor activities.
I continue to be committed to keeping our hunting traditions alive in South Dakota, and I encourage everyone to do the same. If you have the opportunity, make sure you’re including your kids and other young people in your hunting adventures so we can pass these traditions on to the next generation. This is a great opportunity to teach them how to be safe and responsible – and train them to be good stewards of the land for the next century of pheasant hunting.
Don’t miss your chance to make those memories this season. I hope to see you in the field!