May they fly high and come down gracefully


Though pheasants are not a native bird to North America, they have become an integral part of South Dakota hunting traditions.

The 2016 pheasant opener was at noon Oct. 15. 

Pheasant hunting is one of the biggest hunting openers in South Dakota. According to the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, last year the state had more than 150,000 licensed pheasant hunters who harvested more than a million pheasants.

Jeff Grendler, the officer for Game, Fish and Parks in Brookings, said Brookings usually isn’t as busy as the surrounding areas.

“The further you get from Brookings the more you run into pheasant farms and bigger groups,” Grendler said. “You can’t really get an exact amount of how many birds will be in Brookings County. It all depends on how many corn and beans are on the ground and if the fields are harvested.”

Derek Helms, junior natural resources law enforcement major, has been hunting since he was 11 years old. He loves to hunt with his family in their “secret spot.” 

Helms remembers one particular moment when pheasant hunting became one of his favorite outdoor activities. 

“It was a snowy day and the rooster came flying out of a grove of evergreens and my first shot dropped the bird just a foot away from where I was standing,” Helms said. “I will never forget the beauty I saw in the contrast between the white snow and the birds’ plumed feathers.”

Even though the ring-neck pheasant is South Dakota’s state bird, pheasant hunting is still a popular tradition in South Dakota. This makes South Dakota the only state that shoots and eats their state bird. 

According to an article in South Dakota magazine by John Andrew, South Dakota is one of three states whose state bird isn’t native to the United States. The ring-necked pheasant is from China and Eastern Asia and was brought to the United States on March 13, 1881 to Port Townsend, Oregon. 

Not many were still alive, but some were, thanks to the United States Consul General, Owen Nickerson Denny. 

From 1882 to 1884 Denny released more pheasants near the Columbia River, and pheasants thrive in the area today.

Seth Peterson, a senior sports management major, has been hunting since he was 14 years old. Peterson hunts deer, duck and pheasant and usually goes with his family members on pheasant opening day. 

Peterson likes to hunt west of Sioux Falls or in Murdo because he thinks the pheasant population is high around there. Since Peterson is enrolled at South Dakota State University he also goes hunting with his friends around Brookings.

Peterson enjoys hunting with his friends, but said hunting with his family is when he has the most fun. 

“I like road hunting with my grandpa because I get to spend time with him all weekend,” Peterson said.

Peterson said the best time hunting for him comes late in the season when it’s cold.

“I like pheasant hunting when it’s really cold because the birds stay in their habitat and are a little easier to shoot,” Peterson said.

Peterson said pheasant hunting is “memorable because there’s nothing like going out and shooting a couple roosters with family and friends.”