The pheasant hunting season opens on October 16. Will South Dakota’s favor last?
The out-of-state pheasant hunting season, the annual lifeblood of South Dakota’s small towns and large retailers, start saturday.
The state’s famous poultry hobby is an economic machine in itself, contributing $ 1.3 billion to the outdoor industry, but its business success depends on many moving parts. And the most important things – the number of pheasants and the number of hunters arriving in the state – have tended to decline in recent years.
Demand for ammunition – with some price increases of up to $ 1 per round – as well as the nature of the sport shifting from multi-week trips to faster getaways, played a role according to several groups who spoke to leader Argus. . Of course, the pandemic and travel restrictions have kept people at home in 2020.
The bad news for businesses is that there are fewer out-of-state hunters, typically the biggest spenders in all hunting categories. There were 66,540 non-resident licenses issued in 2020, nearly 40,000 fewer than those issued in 2007, the record year.
In 2007, about 2.1 million birds were harvested (culled) and about 180,000 state and non-resident hunting licenses were sold, according to South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks. In 2020, 1.1 million birds were harvested and a total of 121,000 permits were sold.
That number represents an improvement over the birds and licenses sold in 2019, but overall the trend is for fewer hunters in the state.
State expects 2021 to be similar to last year
Sporting goods, ammunition stores and the airport saw hunters arriving in large numbers this week. Scheels was packed in his hunting department Thursday afternoon before the season opened.
“I didn’t go (hunt) last year because of everything going on, but I’ll probably spend about the same (this year) on it,” said David Duchesne, a hunter from Louisiana at the time. that he was getting ready to go shopping at Scheels. at Sioux Falls.
Within the state, there is a sense of optimism that 2021 will be better.
âI’m assuming our bird and hunting numbers will be the same as last year, or slightly up,â said Matt Morlock, acting director of Pheasants Forever in South Dakota.
Optimism has rebounded after years of fewer birds and fewer hunters.
A major factor, according to the GFP, is the loss of prime hunting land.
âWe had a peak, I mean golden years of hunting, in 2007, early 2000s and the main reasonâ¦ was because of the habitat,â said Nick Harrington, GFP spokesperson. “If we’re going to have a lot of birds out there, we have to have a lot of habitat for those birds.”
Over the years, commercial farms have mainly taken advantage of this to offer ground and guided pheasant hunts. And while the state has spent millions to preserve the land, there have been fewer public acres in recent years.
But it’s a good sign that usable land tends to increase thanks to the conservation reserve program, which increased acres of huntable land to 1.5 million acres by 2021, GFP’s Harrington said.
And the CRP is good for farmers and landowners, who receive rent in return for making their land hospitable with grasses and trees conserving resources for wildlife. That plus a longer season that has been put in place and good bird reports is great news for small towns.
Counties like Brown, Brule and Lyman have seen the most birds and the most money in 2020. Kimball in Brule County relies on hunting for literally bread and butter.
âCompared to a year ago, business has been very good. He’s been busy all summer. We continue to be busy and expect lots of sandwich or cookie hunters for breakfast or later today, âsaid Deb Gillen, manager of Ditty’s Diner and longtime Kimball resident.
In Kimball, a town of about 700 people, the opening of pheasant season is a massive event. Every bar, restaurant, grocery store and more depend on it, Gillen said, and he even holds a charity raffle to run a car on all its fuel and oil until it runs out, with hundreds of hunters going.
Hunting is so important in part because it is so commercial now, with many companies that have professionalized pheasant hunting.
Now lodges, bird bowel cleansing, private hunts and more have built on the season and changed South Dakota.
âI have a lot of memories of when hunters would come to farmers’ land and just ask to hunt every year, and (they) bring everything to the families. They would bring the kids candy and soda, and gifts for mom and dad, and they would hunt in the field, âsaid Gillen.
Even amid the statewide drought that has forced some land to mow corn fields and other habitats pheasants like to roost in, 2021 is shaping up to be a comparable season to 2020.
And the state’s new Habitat stamp means more income to help conserve the land through the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, which aims to grow a variety of grasses. Plus, a bounty program to take down predators can mean more pheasants.
Otherwise, the tradition of transmitting joy and the tradition of stalking continues.
âI would also say that for a lot of hunters, when the number of birds has gone down, they’ll say, ‘We’ll come anyway. We love this small town. I’ve seen it change, âGellen said. “But the hunters hunt.”