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South Dakota agritourism gives visitors a range of experiences

Tourism is a major money-maker and South Dakota celebrates its heritage by offering a range of agricultural tourism experiences.

Some visitors spend time on farms and ranches, while others come to experience world class hunting and fishing in the Black Hills.

Dave Ciani and his wife Teri have built their award-winning outfitting business to give visitors unique experiences on the land.

Creating habitat has been key as they've built their own wildlife oasis to welcome hunters and anglers throughout the year.

The Ciani's High Prairie Outfitters in Spearfish started two years ago when the husband-and-wife team bought 300 acres that were habitat ready. They previously operated High Prairie Lodge in Whitewood, South Dakota where Teri said they were in business for 20 years.

“We have turkey hunting, we have antelope hunting at the end of August, early September. We’re coming now into pheasant and upland waterfowl, deer, and the upland waterfowl continuing to the end of January,” said Ciani.  

After the Cianis moved their operation, they also changed up their business model. They no longer offer meals and cut back on the number of hunters they work with. Teri said those adjustments have allowed them to focus more on quality hunts.

Pheasant hunting is a South Dakota tradition – and a very big business. Hunters come from around the world to hunt pheasants and other waterfowl in the state.


“We’ve been doing this for so long that so many of our hunters have become friends. So we still have people that come back, year after year, that we just look forward to. More as friends hunting together than, quote, ‘a customer,'" said Ciani. "And then the new people that come, I haven’t met anyone, yet I didn’t like. And I mean that sincerely, we get the nicest people.”  

Providing habitat for wildlife is great way to ensure an abundance of waterfowl hunting opportunities.

The Cianis have planted new trees on their land to shelter their acreage from nearby roads. They’ve created nesting locations in their ponds... and even have a system of ponds and streams to keep flowing water open all year. They also build what they call corn ponds – where they grow field corn, and then flood the area to provide a direct food source. All of those methods help their visitors enjoy a successful hunt.

Corn pond used to attract waterfowl

Pennington County Commissioner Gary Drewes said agriculture and tourism go hand-in-hand.

“Tourism is critical to the state of South Dakota, and it fits right along with our number one industry being agriculture. Quite frankly, in the hills, the number one industry may be tourism at this point in time. I’ve not really looked at those numbers to determine if that’s the case or not, but, if it’s not number one its very close. It provides a lot of benefits to businesses and the state,” said Drewes.

Agricultural tourism endeavors also provide an opportunity for education. The Cianis educate visiting hunters on gun safety, how to properly identify game, and how to build and restore habitat.

Hunting and fishing outfits are just one focus for agritourism in the state. There are many more examples found on farms, ranches, and community gardens.

Pond on Ciani's property

Some visitors are attracted to agricultural tourism because operations can introduce people to a process they know little about.

In SDPB's next story in our series focusing on agritourism, we’ll visit a community garden near Sturgis that invites visitors to stay on their land. Bear Butte Gardens offers master gardener programs as well as culinary courses that focus on cooking fresh, home-grown produce.

Evan Walton is an SDPB reporter based in Sioux Falls. Evan holds a Master’s in English Literature from Southern New Hampshire University and was honorably discharged from the United States Army in 2015, where he served for five years as an infantryman.