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When the pheasant hunting season started on October 18, there was an expectation that there would be an increase of traffic at the Mitchell Municipal Airport, South Dakota. While the airport manager, Mike Scherschlight, has stated that there have been more hunters, there have actually been a lower number of planes than expected.

In October and November 2014, 601 planes and 2,400 people arrived at the airport. When comparing those numbers to the same period last year; more hunters but fewer planes have arrived at the airports.

Unfortunately, these numbers are not near the records that were set in 2011 and 2012 when over 2,500 people arrived. The number of arriving planes was also higher with 634 in 2011 and 658 in 2012. Yet, the manager of the Mitchell airport considers this year’s traffic figures to be “pretty good”.

According to some commentators, the decline in traffic also coincides with a drop in pheasant numbers. The 2013 pheasant populations fell by 64%, the second largest in the state’s history since records began. Yet this year, brood counts showed some pheasant population recovery with 76% more birds in the fields.

Despite the correlation, Scherschligt, doesn’t know whether the brood counts and pheasant populations have any impact on the amount of traffic through the airport."I think these guys, if they've been talking about hunting, they're going to come regardless," he stated.

Yet this year there are more hunters from outside South Dakota. Last year, there were 76,301 licenses sold. This was the fewest number of non-residential hunting licenses sold for 11 years.

In October and November a total of 80,098 were sold.

Scherschligt believes it is more about economics than pheasant numbers; stating that if hunters don’t have the money for the ticket; they aren’t going to buy plane tickets. At the same time, the airport manager also states that they have been really busy this year and he doesn’t know how much more traffic the airport can handle.

Did you arrive by plane to hunt in South Dakota? What are your experiences of this year’s hunt?

Let us know in the comments below.


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