Like tens of thousands of other hunters, statewide elected officials will be out in the fields after roosters Saturday for the opening of South Dakota's main pheasant season.
Rep. Kristi Noem will hunt with family and friends near her family farm in the Castlewood area of northeastern South Dakota, although she plans to mix hunting with some harvest time, too.
“I’ll be spending time in the field on Saturday to both walk for birds but then later I’ll be in the combine,” Noem said. “I’m one of the lucky ones that will get in a few hours of hunting, because there are a lot of combines going, meaning a lot of guys aren’t going to have time to hunt.”
Bird numbers are expected to be down, but that won’t affect the enjoyment of the hunt, she said.
“For me, there are few things more relaxing than being out in the field with my family and friends in hopes of kicking up a few roosters,” Noem said. “Sounds like it may be more difficult this year than in years past, but a bad day of South Dakota hunting beats a good day in Washington, D.C.”
Sen. John Thune will be hunting with his brother, Tim, and 93-year-old father, Harold, in a group near their hometown of Murdo. Thune said Friday that he looks forward to the opening day all year.
“Opening weekend of pheasant hunting is a much-anticipated South Dakota tradition for many and an excellent opportunity to spend time outdoors with family and friends,” Thune said.
The third member of South Dakota’s congressional delegation, Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson, enjoyed pheasant hunting and organized group hunts prior to limiting physical disabilities caused by a brain hemorrhage in December of 2006. Johnson still celebrates the value of the tradition, however.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard plans to hunt with friends west of Aberdeen. He’ll be using a newer shotgun that replaced the 12-gauge Savage that his father owned and gave to him when he was young.
Like so many shotguns, the Savage has an interesting family history.
“One year for Christmas, two or three years ago, my son Chris took the shotgun in to be professionally cleaned,” Daugaard said. “When they removed the stock of the gun, they found rolled up an old hunting license. It was a license that had been issued to my dad – in 1946."
The pheasant population in 1946 was one of the highest in state history. It’s well below that this year. But that won’t stop hunters, including politicians, from enjoying the day.
The shooting begins at noon, central time.