Pheasant hunting is a $170 million industry in South Dakota. And the approximately 100,000 nonresident pheasant hunters who visit each fall leave behind lots of those dollars.
So the double whammy of a declining pheasant population and declining amount of habitat has officials worried. For the first time in years, the amount of land enrolled in the federal Conservation Reserve Program is less than 1 million acres, and that acreage is expected to continue to fall.
So South Dakota's governor has called for a pheasant habitat summit in December to brainstorm on how to maintain and enhance pheasant habitat.
"It's definitely a concern,'' said Justin Larson of the South Dakota Department of Tourism. "We've always prided ourselves as the Pheasant Capital of the World. It's a huge economic impact to our small communities. It's also our heritage and tradition.
"Our fathers and grandfathers grew up pheasant hunting, and we want our kids and grandkids to continue that tradition.''
The summit, to be held in Huron on Dec. 6, Larson said, is a first step.
Did you know?
• Only about 19 percent of Minnesota's corn crop had been harvested as of Monday; normally about half the crop would be harvested by now. That means pheasant hunters might continue to have trouble finding birds that seek safe haven in the corn fields.
• Minnesota DNR conservation officers conducted an aquatic invasive species check station near Bowstring Lake recently, and reported a 12 percent violation rate.
• The fall fishing bite has picked up, and among the hot spots is the Whitefish Chain.