Recent Op-Eds

A South Dakota Tradition

By Sen. John Thune

October 16, 2020

It’s been a long year filled with a heavy dose of uncertainty and unpredictability. As we continue to face this unprecedented challenge head on, public health and safety are our top priorities. As a result, many annual events and other seasonal traditions have been upended in South Dakota and around the country.

If you’re anything like me, though, you’ve kept your eye on the bright spots – on the semblances of normalcy that make things feel right. For me, that means spending more time with family and cherishing the special moments we get to share with one another. It also means keeping an eye on the calendar and counting down the days until the third Saturday in October – an unofficial holiday here in South Dakota.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of hunters flood to our state to experience the tradition of the pheasant hunting opener and season. With them comes millions of dollars that are added to our economy in food and lodging, transportation, and other related expenses. Since the pandemic has hit some parts of our economy harder than others, many businesses throughout our state that depend on this economic infusion each year have been eagerly awaiting this year’s season. Speaking on behalf of all business owners, I hope it’s a successful one.

Aside from the massive economic effect that pheasant hunting brings to our state each year – and the excitement of bagging a limit of birds – I think the greatest value comes in the time hunters are able to spend with family and friends. I’ve participated in this tradition since I was a kid. I have so many great memories hunting with my father, who we lost in August, my brothers and their kids, and my daughters and sons-in law. It’s been fun to help pass this tradition down to the next generation. I’m already looking forward to the day my grandkids can join me in the field, too. Until they’re a little older, I’ll settle on sharing the bounties of a successful hunt with them instead.

Anyone who has hunted ringnecks in South Dakota understands why we’re known as the pheasant hunting capitol of the world. In addition the beautiful and unmatched landscapes, we also have a plentiful amount of roosters. A large reason for our thriving population can be credited to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) for creating an environment where pheasants can safely nest and raise their brood. I’ve been a longtime champion of the program during my time in Congress.

When we passed the farm bill in 2018, I fought to raise the CRP acreage cap to ensure additional acres could be enrolled in the program. While we’re currently behind the CRP enrollment target, I’ll continue to fight to increase the acres enrolled in this program so our wildlife has the habitat it needs to flourish – and so we can maintain our dominance in this hunting tradition.

South Dakota’s pheasant hunting season is a special time, and I’m thankful that I’ll be able to participate in it this year. I wish everyone a safe and plentiful hunt.