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South Dakota Rolls Out the Orange Carpet for Hunters

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PIERRE, S.D. - Pheasants have thrived in South Dakota for more than a century, and with this year’s traditional season opener just around the corner the state is preparing to greet outdoorsmen and women from around the globe for world-class hunting experiences.

“Fall in South Dakota would not be complete without the cackle of ring-necked pheasants flushing from the fields,” said Gov. Mike Rounds. “This is a special time of year for residents across the state as they welcome family and friends for another fine hunting season.”

The traditional pheasant season begins Oct. 17, and communities are rolling out the “orange carpet” with various activities and welcome-back events for hunters, their families and friends. The South Dakota Office of Tourism’s fall campaign, Rooster Rush, encourages communities to celebrate the lengthy tradition and fervent passion for the annual pheasant hunt.

Several communities from across the state are partners in the Rooster Rush campaign and are displaying welcome banners and posters throughout their towns. Additionally, Aberdeen, Huron, Gettysburg and Watertown are doing the following:

  • Aberdeen Red Cross Canteen Ladies will serve pheasant sandwiches for hunters arriving at the airport. Volunteers and staff of the Aberdeen Convention and Visitor’s Bureau will also give away hats, T-shirts and coupons to area businesses.
  • Huron leaders released ten pheasants in that area with Rooster Rush bands. Each hunter who bags one of the birds and turns in the band will win $100 per band. Area businesses are also giving away Rooster Rush decals and buttons.
  • Gettysburg will provide hunters with information packets. The community will also host an art and wine festival along with a pumpkin carving and a face-painting contest. Many other activities are also planned throughout the season.
  • Watertown hosted a Rooster Rush Kick-Off Party at the Terry Redlin Art Center for area lodges, hotel and restaurant managers, and outfitters to educate them on the campaign and what they can do to get involved in rolling out the “orange carpet.” Watertown officials are also giving away state Lottery tickets and Rooster Rush T-shirts. A large pheasant statue welcomes hunters to the community at the junction of Highways 212 and 81.

South Dakota continues to have the highest rating for pheasant hunting in the nation. This year’s pheasant brood count represents the fourth-highest statewide bird census in the past 45 years. The state has sustained good pheasant populations in the past several years because of the quality habitat provided by the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Whether hunters come to the state this weekend or late in the season, they have a good chance of bagging their limits.

“From the community activities to the abundance of birds, the excitement and enthusiasm of our residents and non-residents is high,” said Melissa Bump, director of the South Dakota Office of Tourism. “We believe it’s going to be another great year of hunting and family tradition in South Dakota.”

Fast Facts:

  • The statewide pheasant hunting season, both resident and nonresident, begins Oct. 17, 2009, and ends Jan. 3, 2010. Shooting hours from Oct. 17 through Oct. 23 are 12 noon CDT to sunset and 10 a.m. CDT to sunset the rest of the season.
  • In 2008, approximately 75,000 resident and 100,000 nonresident pheasant hunters spent in excess of $200 million on the sport in South Dakota.
  • Pheasants may be viewed as an annual crop of the land, just like corn or wheat. Most of the birds shot in each hunting season were hatched the preceding spring and summer.
  • The single most important habitat component needed for successful pheasant reproduction is undisturbed nesting cover. The most obvious source of nesting habitat is Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres on private land. However, Game Production Areas, Waterfowl Production Areas, hayfields, alfalfa, winter wheat, odd areas, pastures, and roadside ditches all can provide cover for nesting.
  • All rooster pheasants have spurs. Spur length can vary from just a small nub on a very young bird, to more than ¾ of an inch (including leg bone) on adult birds. The general rule for determining a rooster's age is, if the spur is less than a ¾-inch in length, including the leg bone, the bird is a young-of-the-year. If the spur is more than ¾-inch long, including the leg bone, the bird is an adult.
  • Pheasants can be found throughout South Dakota and there will be areas of good pheasant hunting in a line from Perkins County in the north to Bennett County in the south and to the Missouri River; however the primary pheasant ranges include all counties east of the Missouri River.



Wanda Goodman, Media & PR Manager of the SD Office of Tourism, 605-773-3301,


* All photos must be credited to the South Dakota Office of Tourism.

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