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South Dakota rolls out orange carpet for army of pheasant hunters arriving for season opener
Sportsmen likely to bag more than a million phasianidae this season
An army of blaze orange vests will flood South Dakota fields this weekend as another year of world-renowned pheasant hunting is upon us.
Saturday marks the opening day of the 2023 pheasant hunting season in the Mount Rushmore State, a place known by sportsmen across the globe as the premier place to bag ring-necks. So much so that more than 130,000 are expected to walk our fields and public hunting grounds this season.
“We are the pheasant capital of the world, so this is a very exciting time of year for our residents who love to pursue our state bird and also our non-residents who love to visit South Dakota and also pursue our state bird,” South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Secretary Kevin Robling told The Dakota Scout ahead of opening weekend.
In all, GF&P estimates 55,000 South Dakotans will try to down some birds before the season ends, and another 80,000 out-of-state hunters are expected to join them.
And while that spells trouble for the birds — an estimated 1.1 million roosters were harvested lasted season — it’s a major economic boon to humans living in South Dakota.
The South Dakota Department of Tourism estimates pheasant hunting generates more than $200 million annually in retail transactions alone, with another $111 million in salaries each year.
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That’s why the business and tourism industries continue to roll out — in this case — the orange carpet for hunters each year. In Sioux Falls, the city’s tourism organization, Experience Sioux Falls, and a handful of other area businesses are spending the two-days leading up to the opener greeting hunters arriving at the Sioux Falls Regional Airport. And they have swag — branded mugs and information on Sioux Falls hotels, restaurants and attractions.
Deeper into pheasant country preparations are well underway as well. The Pierre Area Chamber of Commerce is encouraging local businesses to “paint the town orange” in the lead up to the pheasant kick-off, a yearly tradition in the capital city.
“It is a huge time of year for us,” said Miranda Panzer, director of tourism with the Pierre chamber. “We are always excited to see hunters come to town and experience what Pierre is all about — eat at our restaurants, and enjoy our attractions and shops.”
And though a harsh winter had Robling and sportsmen alike nervous about what that would do to this year’s pheasant populations, he said indications following last week’s three-day resident-only hunting season are that bird counts will be strong.
“We were a little bit worried about overall bird numbers because of the winter we had but things are looking fantastic,” he said, adding that late spring, summer and the first month of fall have brought just enough moisture to create an environment ripe with the insects young pheasants feed on. “We’re getting great reports from the fields … and we’re really optimistic. Anything south of Highway 12 and north of I-90 is looking really good.”