Three to four thousand hunters are expected to fly in to South Dakota this weekend, with the goal of bagging a prized game bird.
The state’s non-resident opener kicks off at noon on Saturday, October 15.
The Sioux Falls Airport was busy with hunters flying in from across the continental US.
Most with one thing on their mind: “Pheasants,” said Dennis Kelly of Greensboro, North Carolina. “And pheasant hunting, and being with great people.”
For most, the trip to mid-October trip to Sioux Falls is a yearly experience.
“We’ve been coming for years, probably pushing years,” said John Mattern of Virginia. “We’ve been to a few different places. We go to the Winner area and we’re looking forward to it.”
Ready to greet the hunters as they step off the plane and into the lobby of the Sioux Falls regional Airport is Tami Schmidt, with the Sioux Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau. Her main goal is to provide hospitality.
“It starts the minute they start coming down that people mover, and hopefully it doens’t end until they get back on that air plane.”
Every year, Schmidt hands out special-printed pheasant themed CVB coffee mugs, which have become a collector’s item to some.
“They love to say what kind of coffee mug are we getting this year? We’ve even had some people say I have every single coffee mug you’ve given us over the years, so that’s pretty cool.”
There is concern about the bird count this year, which is expected to be 20 percent lower than last season. But most say that won’t damper their spirits.
“Killing the birds isn’t the most important thing, it’s the camaraderie, the socialization, getting around and walking around things like this,” said Mattern.
Emmett Keyser with South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks says even when the numbers are projected to be down, South Dakota is till the world class hunting destination.
“Even when bird numbers are down is always going to be better than the next best place. South Dakota is just the pheasant capital in the world.”