Daugaard praises pheasant hunting and its boost to SD economyPheasant hunting has grown into a major piece of South Dakota culture during the past century and now is nearly a quarter-billion dollar piece of the economy.
By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capitol Bureau
PIERRE — Gov. Dennis Daugaard, in an entertaining speech to members of the State Historical Society at their annual meeting Saturday, showed how pheasant hunting has grown into a major piece of South Dakota culture during the past century and now is nearly a quarter-billion dollar piece of the economy.
Clad in blue jeans and an orange and tan hunting jacket, Daugaard spoke about the essential role of good habitat, such as conservation reserve acres, to maintaining a strong population of the prolific species of game birds, and he told the story of the important role that the Governor’s Hunt has come to play in business recruitment.
He said the hunt’s roots were in the administration of Gov. Joe Foss during the late 1950s. The World War II ace fighter pilot invited friends from the armed forces and formed a club to purchase hunting licenses for special guests.
Foss invited Gov. Bill Janklow to his 1979 hunt and Janklow assigned aide Shelley Stingley to develop the hunt into an official state event for hosting business prospects. With the assistance of Foss and the success of Stingley, the hunt became an annual rite of autumn in South Dakota.
Daugaard said 75 people were invited to the first hunt under Janklow in 1980. Through the successive administrations of George S. Mickelson, Walter Dale Miller, Janklow again, Mike Rounds and now Daugaard, the hunt’s invitation list has grown ten-fold.
Daugaard said he sent approximately 800 invitations for the 2011 hunt and about 600 people came. Organizing the latest hunt required help from 10 committee chairmen, some 200 volunteers and approximately $180,000 from donors.
There are banquets on the Friday and Saturday nights of the hunt weekend in Pierre. Several dozen teams of hunters are sent with hosts to assigned farms and ranches within an hour or so driving distance from Pierre.
“The stars of the hunt are all the landowners and the guests we get to know,” Daugaard said.
He acknowledged, in response to a question from the audience, there hasn’t been a study or report assembled that quantifies the numerical relationship between invitations and businesses expanding or relocating to South Dakota.
But he cited a variety of examples, from Vermillion to Pierre to Rapid City, where there was a clear connection.
Daugaard said South Dakota residents spent an estimated $46 million on pheasant hunting and related activities last season, while non-residents spent an estimated $189 million. In 2004, he said, the comparable amounts were $38 million and $104 million.
State wildlife officials estimated that hunters harvested about 1.8 million roosters last season. While that was seen in South Dakota as a good but not great season, Daugaard noted that none of the other major pheasant states broke 1 million.
The top counties traditionally are Brown, Spink, Lyman, Tripp and Brule. In most seasons half of the annual harvest is taken in the first nine days of the main season after it opens on the third Saturday of October. The 2012 season will run Oct. 20 through Jan. 6, 2013.
Accompanying the governor for his speech Saturday was Tom Kirschenmann, chief game biologist for the state Department of Game, Fish and Parks. The audience, being mostly South Dakotans, used as much or more of the 30 minutes for technical questions to Kirschenmann as they did for the governor.
One inquiry was about how handy Daugaard is with a shotgun. He put himself midway on a scale of 10. “I’m about a five. I’ll miss twice and hit one,” he said.
He added that he seems to be a much better shot when there are plenty of other people with him shooting at the same time.