100 Years of Pheasant Hunting in South Dakota
Pheasant hunting season is a time of year that many South Dakotans look forward to for months. I’ve been looking forward to it since the end of last year’s season! It’s a time to pass down traditions and join friends and family in the fields. We’re especially looking forward to this season, as it marks the 100th year of pheasant hunting in South Dakota.
In 1918, our state established its first pheasant hunting season. The first official hunting season was actually held in 1919 in Spink County. Spink County is home to the “Pheasant Capital of the World” in Redfield, where the Chinese Ring-necked Pheasant was released into the wild. As many of you know, the pheasant hunting is still excellent in Spink County, just as it is in so many other areas of the state. This year’s pheasant brood survey shows a 47 percent increase over last year, so no matter which area in the state you hunt, you should be able to find birds.
Hunting is more than just a hobby for South Dakotans, it’s also a big source of income for businesses in communities across the state. Every year, people from all over the country visit our state to hunt in the best pheasant habitat. They stay in our hotels, dine in our restaurants and enjoy all of the other great things South Dakota has to offer. We look forward to welcoming them and helping to enhance their hunting experience.
I’m looking forward to spending opening weekend hunting with our family and friends near Presho. We have our opening weekend traditions, but this year will be a little different with the loss of my dad, “Grandpa Don” earlier this year. He hung up his old Model 12 shotgun a few years back, but he always bought lunch for the group at Hutch’s Café after our hunt and enjoyed hearing everyone’s stories from the day. He will be missed this year. We’ll also miss my hunting dog, Baby, who passed away recently. She came from a long lineage of hunting dogs and loved the thrill of chasing birds.
Like many of you, the land we hunt on is surrounded by Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres, which makes great pheasant habitat. We continue to try to improve the habitat each year by making sure there is water nearby and that we have a diversity of crops planted. We have sunflower, wheat, corn, sorghum-sudangrass mix and kochia weed, which makes good cover for pheasants.
After hunting, when we get all the birds cleaned, a favorite recipe of ours is “pheasant poppers,” which our kids usually make. Pheasant poppers are jalapenos and pheasant breast wrapped up in bacon with a toothpick and grilled, baked or fried. The woman who raised my dad, Georgiana Kauth, always cooked pheasant with mushroom gravy in a cast iron skillet, and that was a favorite recipe of mine growing up.
A few of our grandkids are old enough to mentor hunt this year, so we’re looking forward to watching them. All the grandkids will come down though, even if they aren’t old enough to hunt yet. Opening weekend is a great opportunity to spend time together with family and friends. I hope everyone has a fun, safe and successful opening weekend in South Dakota!