A century has passed since South Dakota’s first pheasant opener, but the shots fired that day have resonated throughout the last 100 years of South Dakota history, impacting our culture, traditions, and economy.

Over the years, Opening Day has become an unofficial holiday for many families, including ours. But beyond a family tradition, it was our family business for many years, as we opened and operated a hunting lodge in northeastern South Dakota. There are dozens of small businesses like that across the state, and they come alive this time of year, as people from across the world flock to our state to take advantage of our unmatched hunting opportunities. 

All in all, hunting drives nearly $700 million worth of economic activity in the state, supporting more than 18,000 full- and part-time jobs, so it’s critical we work to maintain a healthy hunting economy.

This year, surveys show a 47 percent increase in pheasant populations, welcome news for our centennial season. But habitat remains a challenge.

That’s why I fought to have my Protect Our Prairies language included in the 2014 Farm Bill. This legislation encourages conservation of native sod and grassland in our area. Because it’s proven successful, I’m now working to expand the program nationwide.

Additionally, I continue to work to strengthen the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Earlier this year, the House passed legislation to increase CRP acreage to 29 million acres, a priority for many South Dakota sportsmen. I’m hopeful we can move that language across the finish line in the weeks to come, once again helping to create long-term sustainability for our bird populations.

I’m proud to live in a state that celebrates our hunting traditions. All the best to you and your family this pheasant season. I hope it is safe and abundant.

Do you want to sign up for my E-Newsletter?