There’s nothing quite like autumn – cooler temperatures, the sound of crisp leaves under your feet (or snow as may be the case), and students settled back in school. After a warm summer, this time of year is usually highly-anticipated in South Dakota, but not just because of the relief from hotter temperatures and football season being back in full swing. Fall and October are synonymous with one thing for South Dakotans: pheasant hunting season.
The third Saturday in October could be considered an unofficial holiday in our state. Friends and family have an excuse to get together, spend the day pursuing roosters, and usually end it celebrating bagging their limits by making some type of pheasant dish and enjoying in community with one another. I’ve been partaking in this tradition since I was 12 years old, and now I get to share this weekend with my daughters and sons-in-laws and hopefully one day with my grandkids, as well.
Although South Dakota is probably the only state that hunts its state bird, it’s not just South Dakotans that like to participate in this tradition. Nearly 100,000 out-of-state hunters flood to our state to pheasant hunt each year, adding over $200 million to the state’s economy by shopping at our stores, eating at our restaurants, and staying in local hotels. Many of South Dakota’s small businesses depend on the pheasant season’s positive economic impacts each year.
Every weekend that I’m able to share with family and friends and enjoy the beautiful outdoor landscapes of South Dakota is considered a win to me, but it’s even more enjoyable when the ringnecks are plentiful. Something that contributes to a successful pheasant hunt and wildlife habitat in general is good conservation practices.
The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is widely credited for creating an environment where pheasants can nest and raise their brood. I’ve been a champion of the program during my time in Congress, and I’ve continued to fight to ensure we strengthen CRP by raising the acreage cap in the 2018 farm bill so additional acres can be enrolled. Good conservation practices contribute mightily to pheasant numbers and therefore our state’s economy.
The use of our land not only produces food and fiber for us to eat and feed the world, but it can also preserve the habitat areas that support wildlife. Nothing compares to the memories I’ve made with my family out in the fields, and I will continue to work to ensure these traditions are preserved for generations to come.