WINNER, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota’s pheasant opener, Oct. 21, is just days away, and the Winner Regional Airport is well prepared for the influx of traffic.
Tessa Howard, co-manager at the Winner Regional Airport, says that while things are relatively quiet today, with only around four or five planes having come in, things will kick off tomorrow as hunters begin to arrive the day ahead of the pheasant opener.
On Friday, Howard said those four to five planes will turn into 30-40, and that these flights into Winner will stay elevated until they start tapering off around Thanksgiving.
While plenty of these flights in will be landing, dropping off passengers and flying out immediately, Howard said that quite a few will stay for several days.
Lots of these flights are returning guests as well, Howard explained. She and her husband have been managing the airport for about the past decade. “It’s a fun time of year to reconnect,” with all the people they’ve met, she said.
With all this traffic, there are challenges of course. Winner does not have an air traffic tower. Instead, Howard said they mostly rely on the planes communicating with each other as they come in and take off.
Once on the ground, the Howards and their staff work to guide and park the planes, which can sometimes take some creativity. Howard said they’ve never had to turn a plane away due to capacity, but that they have had to park some smaller planes in the grass at the edges of the airfield.
The main challenge, aside form organizing all this, is simply finding help during the busy season. “It is fun though,” Howard clarified.
As for what happens with the hunters once they arrive, the airport itself does not have a fleet of rental cars on hand. Instead, many hunters are picked up and shuttled by the various hunting lodges in the area. Howard also noted that a local dealership rents vehicles to hunters during the season.