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South Dakota’s history of preventing pheasant hunting before noon is one of the most unique in the area. Neighboring states can start their hunting quests a lot earlier in the day. For instance, hunters in North Dakota can start shooting their favorite quarry thirty minutes before sunrise while in Minnesota hunters can take to the fields at 9am.

Yet the reason why there is a noon start in South Dakota is up for debate. The answer really depends on who you ask.

“It’s hard to say why it’s a noon start time,” Travis Runia, the state Department of Game Fish and Parks Senior Upland Biologist, stated when he was asked in a recent interview. “It’s been that way a long time, and it’s strictly a social rule.”

Many hunters state that the later start to the day places them at a distinct disadvantage over their peers in other states. By noon, many pheasants have left their roosts and have spread out to get into cover and in standing crops. This makes them harder to hunt.

“A lot of different interest groups have tried to get it changed over the years, but have never really got anywhere with it,” Runia stated on the efforts from groups to change the rule. “I don’t see it changing anytime soon.”

Ruina went on to say that the noon starter in the state is a cultural tradition. Though there may be another reason. Some research has indicated that the game managers used the noon start to help protect the pheasant population that was suffering over 80 years ago.

Now, pheasants are suffering from the same population problems, especially in the wake of the decline of the CRP program. Yet, there is little evidence to show that a later hunting time will help with pheasant populations. Instead, habitat conservation is going to have the greatest impact.

Would you rather have an earlier hunting time? Does the later start help protect pheasants?

Let us know in the comments below.

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