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From Asia to Doland: South Dakota pheasant historical timeline

Tony Leif, director of the Wildlife Division of South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, gives an overview of the history of pheasants in South Dakota on Friday during the Governor's Pheasant Habitat Summit at the Crossroads Hotel and Convention Center in Huron. (Sean Ryan/The Daily Republic)2 / 2

Following is a timeline relating the history of pheasants in South Dakota, taken from a presentation Friday at the Governor’s Pheasant Habitat Summit in Huron by Tony Leif, director of the state Department of Game, Fish and Parks’ Wildlife Division, and from an article provided by the South Dakota State Historical Society Foundation.

1880: The pheasant, a bird native to Asia, is introduced in North America when Judge O.N. Denny, then the U.S. consul at Shanghai, shipped 70 pheasants to his brother, John Denny, in Oregon. The pheasants were released in Oregon’s Willamette Valley in 1880, 1881 and 1883.

1898: Dr. A Zetlitz, of Sioux Falls, ships two male and four female pheasants to South Dakota from Illinois, and eventually hatches two dozen pheasants. Ten of those pheasants were released in Minnehaha County, but later died out.

1908: A.E. Cooper and E.L. Ebbert release several pairs of pheasants, bought from a Pennsylvania game farm, at their farms south of Doland, located in Spink County. Those pheasants were later wiped out by heavy snow that winter.

1909: Cooper and Ebbert again release several pairs of pheasants at their farms south of Doland, this time with greater success. H.P. Packard, H.J. Schalke and H.A. Hagman, all of Redfield, bought pheasants and released them on Hagman’s farm north of Redfield in 1909. About that same year, A.C. Johnson released 25 pheasants on his ranch south of Frankfort.

1911: The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department releases 48 pairs of pheasants near Redfield that were purchased with privately donated funds. That same year, the state bought 200 pairs of pheasants and issued them to farmers living along the James River in Spink and Beadle counties.

1919: South Dakota opens its first pheasant hunting season, a one-day season in Spink County. Hunters were limited to two roosters and an estimated 200 pheasants are harvested.

1921: South Dakota’s pheasant hunting season expands to a total of five East River counties, including Davison County.

1928: Most counties in eastern South Dakota hold a pheasant hunting season. More than 100,000 resident hunters take part.

1931: South Dakota’s pheasant hunting season opens at noon for the first time, starting a practice that continues today.

1932: All East River counties in South Dakota hold a pheasant hunting season, along with several West River counties.

1934: A pheasant hunting season is held in every county in South Dakota.

1937: A harsh winter impacts South Dakota’s pheasant population and hunting season, and only a few thousand birds are harvested.

1943: A bill designating the Chinese ring-neck pheasant as South Dakota’s official state bird is passed by the Legislature.

1947: The Legislature bans non-resident hunters from participating in the first 10 days of the pheasant hunting season, and bans them from hunting waterfowl at all. As a result, only 13,000 non-resident hunters take part in the state’s pheasant hunting season.

1949: The Legislature lifts its ban on non-resident hunters participating in the first 10 days of the pheasant hunting season.

1975: The South Dakota Pheasant Congress is formed, made up of 150 organizations, and authorizes the sale of the $5 pheasant restoration stamp, which was used to fund the restoration of pheasant habitat in the state.

1985: The Conservation Reserve Program, CRP, is created by Congress as part of the farm bill. The program offered 10- to 15-year contracts to private landowners to convert cropland to idled grassland — vital habitat for pheasants.

2007: More than 1.5 million acres is designated as idled grassland across South Dakota as a result of CRP, and the state’s pheasant population and pheasant harvest reach record highs. The estimated pheasant population was 12 million, and 2.1 million pheasants were harvested.

2013: The GF&P reports the number of pheasants spotted during its annual statewide survey dropped 64 percent compared to the year before. The drop was the second largest in the history of the state’s survey, dating to 1949, and means the pheasant population is probably less than 3 million. Declining CRP acres and tough weather conditions are blamed. Gov. Dennis Daugaard holds a Pheasant Habitat Summit in Huron with the intention of bringing landowners and hunters together, and to keep the state’s pheasant population thriving.