HOWARD, SD -
Today thousands of hunters from across the country kicked off of the South Dakota pheasant season. The number of birds is expected to be down, but there is at least one area with a lot of happy hunters.
At noon Saturday, hunters hit the fields for the opener of Pheasant season. Due to an unusual year of weather, South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Department projected there would be 64 percent fewer pheasants this season. Yet, hunters near Howard are not seeing the lack of opportunity to bag birds.
"I know they say that pheasant numbers are down, but this area there's a lot of birds. There's 15 of us on the first walk and we ended up getting 12 and I'll just say there's more that flew away, so it's a good start," Pheasant Hunter Rick Hiltunen said.
"It was pretty good. I had a nice long shot and then I missed the really, really easy shot, the one where it comes right there. Missed it really bad," pheasant hunter Grant Shaft said.
South Dakota is by far the most popular location in the United States for Pheasant hunting. There will be an estimated 900,000 to a million harvested pheasants in South Dakota, with the second most in any other state is 600,000 in North Dakota. Grant Shaft says his fellow hunter is what keeps bringing him back to the fields year after year.
"I really like the people. I think that's the best. Coming out here with a bunch of good friends, been coming out here for now ten years since I was about 13, and been having a great time," Shaft said.
For other hunters, their experience with man's best friend is why they enjoy hunting.
"Just the comradery with the friends, the dogs, we have some really good dogs. It's fun to watch the dogs, it really is," Hiltunen said.
Even with fewer birds to hunt, the experience will still keep hunters in the fields for the remainder of the season.
Last year, nearly one and a half million pheasants were hunted. The season runs until January 5.
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