First official pheasant season held | South Dakota History
On October 30, 1919, South Dakota held its first official pheasant hunting season. It was a “one-day” season held in Spink County. It was the capstone to effort to establish populations of the Chinese Ringneck Pheasant. Some birds were released in the state as early as 1898, but the first sustainable pheasant population took root from birds released 10 years later.
While celebrating the 100th anniversary of that first season, the Pheasants Forever organization noted the contributions of three sportsmen… H.P. Packard, H.J. Schalkle and H.A. Hagman. They are credited with releasing three pairs of pheasants north of Redfield in 1908. Biologists credit this as the first successful stocking of pheasants in South Dakota.
With an abundance of cover and food, the birds quickly adapted and 11 years later, 1,000 hunters harvested 200 pheasants during a special one-day season in Spink County.
Because of large areas of grass and ag production of small grains, pheasant numbers reached 16 million birds by 1945. In those days, there was an 8-bird daily limit during the hunting season.
A loss of habitat and severe weather took its toll on pheasants, and just 5 years later, South Dakota’s pheasant population had dropped to just over 3 million.
A rebound started in the mid-50s with the Soil Bank program. Designed to address a crop surplus and protect land vulnerable to erosion, the Soil Bank provided payments to farmers for taking acres out of production. That also meant an increase in habitat and a resurgence in pheasant numbers. Similar to the Soil Bank, today’s Conservation Reserve Program, or CRP, provides habitat and stability for pheasants and has helped make South Dakota the “Pheasant Capital of the World.” Each year, hunters typically contribute in excess of $200 million to the state’s economy.
Production help is provided by Brad Tennant, Dakota Wesleyan University.