The South Dakota youth pheasant hunting season will nearly double in length later this year, thanks to the advocacy efforts of an eighth-grader from Vivian.

The South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks Commission finalized the proposal to extend the season this week. It 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 who attends the Jones County School District in Murdo. Hendricks' efforts were featured by The Daily Republic in March.

“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 GF&P.

R3 stands for Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation and 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.

In a news release from GF&P, Hendricks said she appreciated South Dakota's outdoors leaders understanding the need to change the youth pheasant season. Her parents, Travis and Dee, have helped promote youth hunting, while also stressing the importance of ethics and valuing the land.

“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," Hendricks said. "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."

Commissioner Mary Anne Boyd of Yankton noted the number of public comments received from Savanah’s peers.

“I want to thank the petitioner and her peers for getting involved in the public process,” said Boyd. “They have made a difference.”

GF&P Secretary Kelly Hepler 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. “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.”