SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - In just two days, thousands of out-of-state hunters will be hitting the fields, sloughs and ditches of South Dakota in search of the redneck pheasant.
Saturday is opening weekend of pheasant hunting season, but some out-of-staters are already arriving.
Pheasant hunting season in South Dakota is a time-honored tradition for a lot of families, including those who fly in from all over the country. We caught up with one group of hunters from Virginia who come back year after year after year. But they told us even though it's a tradition, for some of their members, this trip will be their last.
It's only Thursday, but the pheasant fanfare is already underway.
"This is a way for us to say thank you and also to welcome them to South Dakota," executive director of the Sioux Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau Teri Schmidt said.
From hats to mugs to cookies and shirts, pheasant hunters are greeted with gifts.
"It's kind of like old home week for us too, because we've gotten to know a lot of these people over the years," Schmidt said.
People like Charlie Glaezner.
"The tradition in our family started in 1957 when my father first came, and I started coming in the middle 80s," Glaezner said.
And Joe Mayes.
"The group of guys that I hunt with are a great group and we always have a wonderful time," Glaezner said.
The group from Virginia keeps coming back year after year. For them, Saturday's opener always starts the same way.
"The first thing we have is a safety lecture. The next thing we have is a prayer and remembrance because some of the people in our group aren't with us anymore," Mayes said.
But as you're about to hear, they really are.
"We actually have done that on a number of occasions we have managed to obtain some of the ashes from deceased members and have spread them in the fields where we hunt," Mayes said.
In all our years of covering opening weekend, we've never come across a story quite like this one, where the tradition sometimes means you never leave.
"They're still with us hunting today, we always think about them and pray for them when we hunt," Mayes said.
The group hunts out by Winner and Presho and told us they have made countless friends and that means more to them than three birds a day.