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South Dakota: A Premier Pheasant Hunting State

South Dakota is the World's premier pheasant hunting destination.Often called “The Pheasant Hunting Capital of the World,” South Dakota has consistently boasted solid pheasant numbers and positive habitat news. In the 2008-2009 season, South Dakota welcomed 176,000 hunters that spent $219.6 million and brought home 1.9 million birds. It seems that even though there have been trying times, South Dakota remains a treasure to pheasant hunters.

Just a few years ago, in 2005, South Dakota’s pheasant population neared 10 million birds and had a harvest that was more than twice that of the next nearest competitor. Various factors contribute to the consistently high pheasant populations. These factors seem to separate South Dakota from other popular pheasant hunting destinations. First, South Dakota’s soil is high in lime which is apparently good for nesting and hatching. Second, there is consistent cash flow into the habitat. South Dakota is dominant in commercial fee hunting which allows farmers to invest back into the habitat. Third, the state is high in CRP acres. There was a loss of 24% of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land in 2008, which is most likely the cause for a 26% decrease in statewide count from 2008 to 2009. However, South Dakota now leads the CRP land enrollment at nearly 50,000 acres. With the onset of 2008 State Acres For wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) program, an additional 20,200 acres were allocated for CRP enrollment. Last, there is land in South Dakota that is not productive for farmers, leaving extra pieces of land open and available for pheasant population.

Most of South Dakota’s hunters travel from the Midwest states of Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and Indiana. These states used to have great pheasant hunting opportunities, but have declined in recent years. The price of farmland has increased dramatically and farmers who used to invest back into pheasant habitat and conservation are now unable to do so. It stands to reason that this fact has led to decreasing pheasant populations. Now hunters from those states flock to South Dakota to experience a premier hunting experience.

All of this translates into a solid hunting culture in South Dakota. The state is number one when it comes to the quantity of public land hunting and scores high with free walk-in access to private land. Along with this, there are many commercial fee hunting opportunities. Whether you have thousands of dollars to spend on your hunting adventure, or you desire a frugal trip, South Dakota has the experience for you.