By Senator John Thune:
There is nothing like a crisp fall day in South Dakota for enjoying one of our great state traditions, pheasant hunting. Families throughout South Dakota dust off their hunting gear, organize weekend hunts, and invite out-of-town family and friends into their homes for a taste of this long-standing sporting tradition. While pheasant hunting may be the reason for these annual fall gatherings, for many of us the time spent with family, friends, and neighbors is the true highlight of the fall hunts.
South Dakota has become famous for its hospitality and quality pheasant hunting. Dubbed the “Pheasant Capitol of the World,” we have grown accustomed during these fall and winter months to seeing planes coming and going from our airports filled with passengers loading and unloading their gun cases, coolers, and blaze orange gear. Despite pheasant numbers being down for the 2013 season, the South Dakota Department of Tourism estimates that pheasant hunting will generate approximately $223 million in revenues for the state. Whether it is the licenses, gas, and gear that they buy, or the nights spent in lodges and motels throughout the state, clearly hunting in South Dakota is big business.
But for those of us who grew up pheasant hunting in South Dakota, we often do not think about the business it generates. Instead, we think about the treasured memories of quality time we have spent with families and friends, the lessons we learned about responsible hunting practices and gun safety, and the unforgettable feeling of bagging that first pheasant. All of these experiences have made pheasant hunting a sport passed down from generation to generation in our state, and one which I hope can continue for future generations.
As we gather at our favorite pheasant hunting locations, take the newest family hunter out for the first day in the fields, and gather at night over a warm meal to tell stories of the “shot of the day,” we continue these treasured South Dakota traditions and instill an appreciation for nature and the outdoors in the next generation of hunters. I wish all hunters across South Dakota a safe and successful hunting season.