I love the fall. Cooler days. County fairs with youth livestock shows going on almost every weekend. And, of course, heading out to the fields to shoot the state bird.
As tourism season draws to a close, hunting seasons are beginning to open around the state. Dove, antelope, deer and Canada geese seasons recently opened, kicking off the fall 2021 hunting calendar.
Over the next four months, South Dakotans and non-resident hunters will flock to the fields and forests in search of fertile grounds. Thanks to the enthusiasm brought by our hunter-friendly policies, both hunters and the state are reaping benefits from seasonal outings.
It’s estimated the annual hunting season brings in about $500 million to the state economy, benefiting businesses of all sizes. When combined with fishing and other outdoor activities, the total economic footprint of our Game, Fish, and Parks Department is about $1.33 billion. A new study going on now is looking at this season’s figures and will give us a better post-pandemic picture of how hunting is benefiting local economies.
The fees collected from licensing alone bring in nearly $28 million each year to support our Game, Fish, and Parks Department. Those funds go to our conservation officers, habitat improvements, grassland restorations, and much more. Our Hunt for Habitat raffle raised $329,000 this year – the raffle has raised more than $1 million total over its first three years – to support more than 6,500 acres of habitat restoration and improvement across 18 counties. Since 2013, the Bighorn Sheep auction has raised nearly $1 million for bighorn sheep reintroduction projects, wildlife disease testing labs and research, and water development projects.
All but one of the winning tags from this year’s Hunt for Habitat raffle went to South Dakota hunters. That’s because hunting is serious business in our state.
Last year, South Dakota was No. 1 in the nation for the percentage of residents obtaining a hunting license (nearly 25%) – we were No. 11 overall based on total non-resident hunting licenses issued. And while we are known for our premier pheasant hunting, we also are favorites among archers coming in at No. 4 on BowHunting.com’s most hunter-friendly states.
We’re not taking these accolades for granted, either. Since 2019, the Second Century Initiative has fought to maintain family hunting traditions by introducing kids to the adventure of the outdoors, while conserving our outdoor culture for the next generation.
Thanks to the Second Century Initiative, we are seeing remarkable pheasant numbers, which increases interest in South Dakota as a hunting destination. Our Nest Predator Bounty program is getting more youth involved in trapping while also helping to boost our pheasant numbers through increased nest success.
All of these actions are meant to protect and sustain our rich outdoor legacy in South Dakota. Hunting, trapping, and living off the land are all valuable skills that should be handed down to the next generation. Hunting also provides a great outlet for exercise, positive mental health benefits, and the value of knowing exactly where your food is coming from.
To learn about hunting in South Dakota, or how to obtain a license, go to gfp.sd.gov/hunt/ and click the “Purchase License” banner. While at the website, you can also learn about our youth mentor program, which was recently expanded by the legislature. There’s also information about accessing hunting areas.
Good luck to all the hunters gearing up for another fun season! Thank you for what you do to keep our state’s traditions alive and thriving for the next generation of hunters.