With Labor Day here, the summer tourism season is ending and focus shifts to the fall.
In South Dakota, pheasant hunting is a big part of that focus. After a drop last year, the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish & Parks’ bird count numbers show an increase in pheasants this year.
That's especially welcome news for those in the Brown County tourism industry where hunters spend millions of dollars each year. It topped the state in pheasant hunter spending two years ago, took second to Tripp County last year.
With his dogs ready to get out and find some birds, hunting guide Dennis Foster is thankful there are more pheasants around this year.
"I've got ground from around this area, which is south of Aberdeen, clear to west of the river and even into southeast North Dakota. It looks good everywhere. Apparently conditions were perfect for a good hatch," Foster said.
Crops still sit on the field, but when they come off Foster hopes to see bird numbers higher than the Game, Fish & Parks roadside surveys suggest. Whether that happens or not, Foster says it's obvious there are more pheasants than last year.
That could mean more money coming to the northeast part of the state. Last year when pheasant numbers were down, hunters spent an estimated $8.7 million in Brown County according to Game, Fish & Parks. That was down from $12.5 million the year before.
"Last couple years we did see a little bit of a dip in the economics. They follow the hunters and they follow the bird numbers. This year with the upward swing statewide being 76 percent, we're expecting a good year," Casey Weismantel said.
Weismantel works for the Aberdeen Convention & Visitors Bureau. He says the roadside survey counts released this time of year can make a big difference.
“The travel shows we go to, the hunters that are there, they really watch those bird numbers,” Weismantel said.
South of Aberdeen, Foster knows this year’s increase could help hunting operations like his. Based on what he's seen in the past, he says it shouldn't stop there.
"The hunters benefit the whole region whether it's the cafes, bars, obviously the gun shops," Foster said.
Pheasant hunters spent $170 million in the state two years ago. That dropped to $140 million last year.
Other northeast counties including Spink, Beadle, Edmunds and Hand saw a drop in hunter spending last year as well. They're also seeing more birds this year.