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Thousands Of Hunters Flock To South Dakota

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Pheasant numbers may be down across the state, but that isn't stopping thousands of hunters from coming to South Dakota this weekend.

"They just come from all over the country," said Teri Schmidt, Executive Dir. of Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"All 19 years I've lived in Florida I've come back every year," said hunter Neil Schmidt.

Whether they're from Florida, Texas, or even Peru, the hunters say South Dakota is the place to be this weekend.

With so much traffic coming through, local businesses are making sure they're ready to accommodate everyone.

"You know, they spend millions of dollars in our state. They fly into Sioux Falls, they stay in our hotels, eat in the restaurants, buy their licenses here, buy their shells and numerous other things," said Terri Schmidt.

The Convention and Visitors Bureau kicked off the 16th anual 'Hunters Celebration' at the Sioux Falls Regional Airport on Thursday.

"This is the big day where we get to welcome pheasant hunters to South Dakota. We wait for this to come around every year," said Teri Schmidt.

"People in the area are friendly. It makes it a pleasure," said Doug Mullens, a hunter from Peru.

However, with studies showing bird numbers down by more than 50 percent in the area, the friendly atmosphere may not be enough to draw hunters in this year.

"I don't think the fact that they're talking about lower numbers of birds is going to make a difference," said Teri Schmidt.

And the hunters seem to agree.

"I'm going to come whether there are birds or not. It's more about the camaraderie, and the fun, and the family...and hunting," said Neil Schmidt.

"I think probably more the camaraderie with the guys, and the different guys I've met from all over the U.S." said Doug Mullens.

Even if there are no birds this season, they'll find a way to pass the time.

"We'll just stay at the hotel, talk, reminisce. Because some of us don't see each other but once a year," said Steve Byars of Texas.

The airport expects just as much traffic to come through on Friday, before the season kicks off at noon on Saturday, Oct. 19.

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