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For South Dakotan residents it is not Christmas or Thanksgiving that is their favorite time of year, instead it is often stated that the third weekend of October is the best time of the year. Why? Because this is the traditional weekend for the opening of the pheasant hunting season.

The opening pheasant weekend is the time for hunters in South Dakota to bring together their friends and families. They hope for a fun weekend full of excitement as well as the chance to hunt their favorite quarry and hopefully bag a few.

Pheasant hunting isn’t just important to hunters of South Dakota. Businesses in the state benefit enormously from the regular season. Records show that between $170 million and £250 million is generated by pheasant hunting every year on lodges, ammunition and other hunting essentials. To prepare for this, hotels, cafes, hardware and sporting shops prepare for months to get ready for the influx of hunters.

Both groups rely heavily on the contribution that the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) provides to support the pheasant population in the state.

The CRP was started in 1985 as a way to pay farmers not to use marginal land. Since then it has grown to a 20 million acre program that protects fields from erosion and provides the perfect habitat for pheasants. Pheasants often use CRP lands to nest, raise chicks and search for shelter and land. Hunters are also fond of CRP enrolled lands because pheasants are plentiful and so offer the best hunting experience.

In December, CRP will be celebrating its’ thirtieth anniversary. However, for it to survive another thirty years, everyone needs to remember its importance. Recent years have seen a decline as funding has reduced and farmers see more profit in putting fields back into production due to the increasing demand on certain crops.

If the trend continues, then the recent long term declines of pheasant populations will continue and with that will the decline of the state’s revenue from hunting.

How will you celebrate the 30 years since the inception of CRP? Will you help support their continued presence in the fields?

Let us know in the comments below.

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