Marty Jackley Pheasant Hunting Initiative

South Dakota is the Pheasant Hunting Capital of the world and I will do everything in my power to keep it that way.

All South Dakotans have a huge stake in increasing our pheasant population. Pheasant hunting is a way of life in South Dakota. It is a rich part of our heritage that connects people with the beautiful lands God gave us.

A recent SD GF&P study shows hunters generate nearly $700 million in retail sales annually. Pheasant hunting brings 80,000 to 100,000 non-resident hunters to our state every year. It impacts thousands of jobs by contributing hundreds of millions to South Dakota’s economy. Hunting benefits tourism, retailers, the hospitality industry, rural communities, and more. According to the GF&P study, pheasant hunting contributes to 4,130 jobs and over $125 million in wages in South Dakota. The study also shows pheasant hunting generates about $50 million in tax revenue along with adding over $200 million to our state’s gross domestic product annually.

Unfortunately, we have seen a significant decrease in our state’s pheasant population over the past decade due, in large part, to the loss of habitat.  The most recent annual pheasant brood survey shows an alarming decrease in the statewide pheasants-per-mile (PPM) index. The 2017 statewide pheasants-per-mile index is 1.68, down from the 2016 index of 3.05.   This represents a 45 percent reduction statewide, while some local areas saw population reductions as high as
58 percent.  Trendlines compared to prior years are even more concerning.

As Governor, I will lead the effort to build a strong partnership with all stakeholders across South Dakota to restore our state’s pheasant population.  We will create public-private partnerships and take aggressive action to increase pheasant numbers.

1. Create a Pheasant Restoration Blue Ribbon Commission

I will create a Blue Ribbon Commission to develop short and long-term objectives to restore our state’s pheasant population. We will implement a multi-faceted omnibus plan to include landowners, sportsmen, the hospitality industry, hunting groups, conservation groups, the airline industry, the Department of Tourism, regional convention and visitor bureaus, the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce and Industry, local chambers, economic development groups, local governments, experts from our university system, and more.  We will build on the work of Governor Daugaard’s Pheasant Habitat Working Group and create public-private partnerships to increase habitat that will restore pheasant populations. The initiative will include plans for developing better habitat, nesting cover, and predator control.

2. Build Public-Private Partnerships for Habitat

I will lead an unprecedented effort to raise private capital that will provide the funding to create critical habitat necessary to restore pheasant populations.

We must take bold action now because South Dakota is rapidly losing habitat acres having a direct impact on our pheasant population. South Dakota has already lost 61 percent of the acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) over the past decade. In 2007, South Dakota had just under 1.6 million acres enrolled in CRP.   As of September 30, 2017, South Dakota had 976,938 acres enrolled in CRP. The contracts for over half of those acres, 531,201, are set to expire between 2018 and 2022, which means total CRP acres could drop to less than 600,000 acres by 2020.

We simply cannot afford to lose this much habitat and expect to maintain our pheasant populations and we cannot rely on the federal government to fix our problems. We must take the initiative ourselves and work with our neighbors to improve habitat.

Because so many hunters rely on public lands, I will work to provide year-round habitat on these lands. For pheasants to survive and thrive, food plots, good nesting cover with pollinator species, wetlands, and trees to provide winter cover and food sources are necessary. I will also work to increase the acreages of public lands to provide all these habitat needs in a suitable arrangement and space. This is a win-win for everyone.  Sportsmen have more places to go, the local community brings in more dollars, GF&P pays property taxes, and pheasants have homes across this great state.

3. Implement Pheasant Release Program

I will implement a pheasant release program by the 2020 hunting season as part of a long-term strategy to restore pheasant populations and to develop better habitat. The program will focus on reintroducing pheasants to areas that have lost most, if not all, of its historical bird count. It will also be done in conjunction with habitat development. In addition, we will work with biologists and scientists at our universities to develop better genetics. The program will be a statewide partnership with farmers, ranchers, and landowners.

Pheasants were introduced to South Dakota and flourished from a related bird program. We shouldn’t be timid about rebuilding our numbers again in areas where we can identify good habitat. The South Dakota pheasant story began in 1908 when A.E. Cooper and E.L. Ebbert bought several pairs of pheasants from a Pennsylvania game farm and released them near Doland. In 1909, several friends bought some Chinese ring-necked pheasants and released them on a farm near Redfield. Another farmer released pheasants near Frankfort. Soon after, the Redfield Chamber of Commerce sponsored the first large release of pheasants in the area. By 1911, the SD Department of Game and Fish joined the effort and released even more birds that were purchased with privately donated funds. In 1913, five thousand more pheasants were bought from a game farm near Chicago, displayed at the SD State Fair, and released across the state. By 1919, South Dakota had its first hunting season for pheasants and an estimated population of 100,000 birds… and the rest is history.

4. Create Volunteer Habitat Stamp and Sportsmen License Plate

I will work to create new funding opportunities, including a voluntary $10 habitat stamp that can be purchased with hunting licenses. I will also work to create a special sportsmen’s license plate people can buy to show their support and generate funding for increasing habitat. If effectively promoted, the volunteer stamp and sportsmen’s license plate will generate hundreds of thousands in new revenue every year for habitat that will benefit all wildlife and improve hunting access.

5. Promote Next Gen Youth Hunting

I will promote youth hunting programs to encourage younger generations to hunt and become active in the outdoors. I will work with the numerous local and state organizations involved with youth hunting and help with fundraising to provide grants for such groups. I will also appoint a “Youth Ambassador” to serve on the Blue Ribbon Commission.

Pheasant hunting is a South Dakota tradition passed down for generations. Most of us grew up hunting with our parents and we have passed it down to our children. Some of my proudest experiences as a father have been teaching my kids how to hunt and watching them develop a love for it. Unfortunately, youth hunting numbers have been declining.  It is a national trend that we must reverse before we lose the next generation of hunters. There is no better place to achieve that than right here in the pheasant hunting capital of the world.