SD ready for pheasant huntersHunters would never know the pheasant count is down in the Dakotas by talking with Sandy Audiss, owner of the Pheasant Bar in Winner.
By: and The Daily Republic , The Associated Press
Hunters would never know the pheasant count is down in the Dakotas by talking with Sandy Audiss, owner of the Pheasant Bar in Winner.
In anticipation of the Saturday statewide opening of the hunting season, Audiss spent this week getting her pheasant-themed and hunter friendly bar ready for the annual onslaught of orange. That meant fixing the burnedout sign in front of the business, ensuring that plenty of beer is on tap and readying the karaoke machine for posthunt partying.
“A lot of the hunters are old ones that we’ve known forever and come every year. They’re just like family,” said Audiss, who took over the bar five years ago from her father, who had owned it for about 30 years. “A lot bring their grandkids now. The older ones move on, and the new ones come in. It’s really a family thing. And it’s a good economic thing.”
With the Pheasant Opener just hours away, Mitchell Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Hannah Walters and assistant Katie Knutson spent part of Thursday using stencils to spray -paint curbs throughout town with orange pheasants and a “Hunt Mitchell” slogan. The orange paint is washable, she assured.
“We always have fun with the Pheasant Opener, and every year we try to do something new and different to welcome hunters,” Walters said.
The CVB will also staff an information table at Cabela’s over the next few days. The store on Interstate 90 becomes a major meeting place for hunters every pheasant season.
As events go, the opener has a huge economic impact. In 2010, visiting and local hunters contributed $10.3 million to Mitchell’s economy, Walters said. Area motels and lodges are expecting a big week. Walters said the CVB will place orange door-hangers on doorknobs reading, “Eat, Sleep, Hunt. Repeat tomorrow.” The opposite side reads, “My hunting partner barks in his sleep.”
Large blaze-orange banners declaring “Welcome Hunters” have been hung near the Visitors Center at Exit 332 on Interstate 90, across the Corn Palace marquee on Main Street and at the Mitchell Municipal Airport.
Fly-in visitors will also be welcomed with blaze-orange T-shirts and orange popcorn balls.
“I enjoy seeing the same hunters every year and hearing their stories,” Walters said. Some hunters, she noted, have been coming to South Dakota for 50 years.
Towns such as Winner and nearby Gregory also thrive during the nearly three-month hunting season, which ends Jan. 1 in South Dakota. Hunters arriving Thursday at the Sioux Falls Regional Airport were greeted by more than a dozen businesses serving as a tarmac-side welcome wagon.
Chuck Schlueter, communications manager for the state’s Department of Game, Fish and Parks, said Thursday he expects a strong opening weekend despite the pheasant population decreasing.
“It’ll be great hunting, but we won’t have the same abundance as we’ve been having” in recent years, Schlueter said.
According to a 2011 brood-Overall, it’s a significant blow after several years of near-record pheasant populations in both Dakotas. Experts say a variety of factors lessened the brood: Land that had been pheasant habitat instead is being farmed, rough winters lowered the breeding population, and cool springs meant fewer chicks survived.
But Schlueter is optimistic for South Dakota, where the survey report, the pheasants per mile index decreased by 46 percent statewide compared to 2010. The numbers are down 41 percent compared to the 10-year average.
The report wasn’t bad news for the whole state, however: Numbers in Winner and western South Dakota didn’t change much from 2010 to 2011. The hardest hit areas were Sisseton, Aberdeen, Huron and Yankton.
ring-necked pheasant is the state bird and pheasant hunting is so renowned that it’s drawn celebrities such as Clark Gable and Ted Nugent over the decades. This weekend’s weather forecast helps with highs in the 60s. That should even be comfortable for the hunting dogs at risk of overheating while aiming to please their masters, said Gary Straight, a veterinarian with the Gregory Animal Clinic in Gregory.
“The opening of pheasant season is a time for family and friends to get together,” Schlueter said. “It’s a time for sharing memories from the past and creating new memories with each hunt.
“You’re going to see a lot of orange.”
— The Associated Press’ Amber Hunt and The Daily Republic’s Ross Dolan contributed to this report.