PIERRE – At its May meeting, the Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) Commission finalized its proposal to extend the youth pheasant season.
The proposal modified the current season dates from five consecutive days beginning on the first Saturday of October to nine consecutive days beginning 21 days prior to the third Saturday of October. The 2020 youth pheasant season will begin Sept. 26 and end Oct. 4.
The proposal originated through the public petition process and was originally brought to the commission in March by Savanah Hendricks, a junior high school student from Vivian.
“Opportunities like the one Savanah created through her petition help remove barriers for whole families to engage in hunting together,” said Taniya Bethke, education and R3 coordinator for GFP. R3, which stands for Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation, is a national movement in response to declining participation in hunting, shooting sports, angling and outdoor recreation. The importance of mentorship and whole-family engagement in hunting and shooting sports is more evident than ever before.
“Whether enjoying a long-held family tradition, or learning skills to create a new tradition, the extended youth season means more families will be able to get out in the field,” said Bethke. “Time to practice new hunting skills without the pressure that comes with the traditional hunting season is what makes the youth season so important.”
Hendricks recognizes the larger impact on families and the future of hunting as well.
“I want to thank Mr. Chair, members of the commission, and Secretary Hepler for understanding the need to change the youth pheasant season,” Hendricks said in a statement. “I really appreciate the opportunity to be involved in such a big part of a change that will not only affect me, but will affect all youth and South Dakota’s hunting industry ... Now more than ever I feel that students need to participate in as many activities, sports, clubs and organizations as they can, as well as get good grades! I feel very proud of all the hard work I put into this and to have it pass. This is a day I will never forget. I’m so happy the commissioners saw this petition as important as I do. I feel very excited and cannot wait to see what the future holds for all youth and for South Dakota’s hunting industry. #R3!”
Commissioner Mary Anne Boyd of Yankton noted the number of public comments received from Hendricks’ peers.
“I want to thank the petitioner and her peers for getting involved in the public process,” said Boyd. “They have made a difference.”
Kelly Hepler, secretary of South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, stressed the importance of working together to secure South Dakota’s outdoor heritage for the next generation.
“This is an example of everyone coming together to reach a common goal,” said Hepler. “Behind Gov. Noem’s Second Century Initiative, we are all working to secure South Dakota’s great outdoor heritage and the next 100 years of pheasant hunting in our state. We are proud to have youth like Savanah meeting that challenge head on and putting R3 efforts into action. We look forward to having Savanah and her family share our love of the outdoors and help provide opportunities to give others positive experiences.”
Hendricks' parents, Travis and Diana Hendricks, supported their daughter in bringing her petition to the commission.
“As parents, we couldn’t be more proud of Savanah for her hard work and dedication to help make this happen,” they said in a statement. “What a great opportunity for youth.Everyone we worked with along the way made this an awesome experience for all of us with their encouragement and support. We would like to thank the South Dakota Game Fish and Parks Commission for their full support in passing Savanah’s petition to extend the youth pheasant season. Thank you again for making South Dakota the greatest place to enjoy the outdoors!”