Pheasants Forever embraced by campus

Pheasants Forever has spread its wings to open a new chapter at SDSU, building upon a long term commitment with the organization in Brookings. As the first collegiate chapter in South Dakota, it joins the Brookings Chapter and the Regional Headquarters office, located at the South Dakota Innovation Center.

“As a college chapter … we have a chance to stand out and be unique, we get to work with K-12 outreach as well, whether that’s schools, the Boys and Girls Club, a hunter safety course, or a youth hunt,” Mandy Orth, chapter president, said.

The SDSU chapter will have a main focus on education outreach and research. With an emphasis on game bird research, and a large amount of students studying natural resource management and wildlife and fisheries, starting a chapter at SDSU made sense, Orth said.

“[SDSU is] leading in the category for these [natural resource] degrees in the nation and we see a lot of those students coming into Pheasants Forever so we thought it would be a good idea to get the experience in now,” Mike Stephenson, regional representative of South Dakota, said.

According to Stephenson, collegiate chapters are more focused on research and teaming up with already established chapters, since they will see a lot of turnaround. “Most of the committee members only have about four years to really dive in whereas most of these chapters have been around for 20-30 years,” Stephenson said.

While a faster turnover in members and officer positions could prove a potential challenge, it could also make the group a bigger success, as new members and officers will bring new and fresh ideas, Orth said.

The target markets of the Brookings Chapter and the SDSU chapter are different, Stephenson said, as the collegiate chapter focuses more on the next generation and raising public awareness of the Pheasants Forever mission through events.

“I am really excited to work with the Brookings chapter and other chapters because they have a lot of knowledge and can help us out, and we can cover aspects that they may not be as involved in, we can help each other out,” Megan Norman, habitat chair, said.

Some members, like Norman, have worked with the Pheasants Forever chapter in their hometowns and now have the opportunity to bring the two together, which is exciting, Stephenson said. While they will work with other chapters in many ways, the SDSU chapter will have their own projects to focus on as far as diving into educating the next generation about conservation practices, Stephenson said.

“Brookings County has their own chapter … we aren’t here to compete with them, we’re here to focus more on the outreach which is a huge thing in this field,” Taylor Linder, vice president of SDSU’s chapter, said.

Working with the community and gaining hands-on experience is one of the best parts about having a chapter open at SDSU, Linder said. “Employers are looking for that hands on experience, it’s one thing to be able to put it on a resume but its another to be able to execute it,” Linder said.

Membership in the SDSU chapter costs $10 per semester, or $15 for an entire year. While the SDSU chapter was already made an official Pheasants Forever chapter, the group still had to complete the process of becoming an official SDSU group, which was completed just recently, Orth said.

 “The sky is the limit for us … You can sit in class all you want, but you aren’t going to really learn something until you get your hands on it and get involved,” Linder said.