SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – A national pheasant organization is looking to add 10,000 new acres of land for hunting access through a new program. 

On Wednesday, Pheasants Forever announced its Public Access to Habitat (PATH) program that aims to accelerate statewide enrollment of lands in long-term conservation programs along with helping the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks’ Walk-In Area program. 

A fund of $250,000, funded by onX Hunt and South Dakota Tourism, is open to landowners to enroll starting Sept. 1. The PATH program adds to the current GFP Walk-In area program adding an additional sign-up incentive of up to $25 per acre in return for 10 years of undisturbed habitat and access on private land. 

According to the GFP, 80% of land in South Dakota is privately owned and most hunting occurs on private land. Each year, the GFP prints and updates a South Dakota Public Hunting Atlas to identify the more than 5 million acres of game production areas, walk-in areas, waterfowl production areas, school and public lands, national forests and grasslands. 

In 2022, GFP officials reported hunters bagged 1,158,716 roosters up 8.6% more than 2021.

“PATH has all the ingredients to be a major statewide success for landowners, wildlife, hunters and rural communities in The Pheasant Capital,” Matt Gottlob, Pheasants Forever’s state coordinator in South Dakota, said in a news release. “We view Public Access to Habitat as a win-win for landowners and hunters alike and designed it to be scalable for years to come.”

Landowners would work with biologists from Pheasants Forever or the GFP for evaluation and implementation. 

The guidelines for the PATH program are: 

  • CRP and high-quality undisturbed habitat are incentivized at a base rate of up to $25/acre.
  • Habitat must remain undisturbed annually, outside of required management practices for conservation practices.
  • Shelterbelts, wetlands, CRP, easements, existing grass qualify for the program
  • Minimum PATH contract length of 10 years.
  • All PATH enrollments require a GFP Walk-In Area contract.
  • Managed rangelands/working lands are also eligible with payment rates similar to GFP rates.

Pheasants Forever said it is fundraising for the next 10,000 acres of enrollment in the PATH program. Landowners can learn more about the program on the organization’s website.

South Dakota’s traditional pheasant hunting season starts Saturday, Oct. 21 and goes through Jan. 2024.