We’re in Jones County, South Dakota out in the field with the Hendricks family where 14 year old Savanah is advocating for youth hunting all across KELOLAND.
“I just think it’s really important to get these kids outside. I think it’s important to teach them sustainability. I think it’s important for them to know where their food comes from. And most of all, to create memories. I really like the idea that we can spend the day outside doing things together, and then we can reflect back on that and laugh and have those traditions. And, I hope that they’ll do the same with their kids,” said Dee Hendricks.
Dee Hendricks grew up in Wisconsin and moved to Jones County in 2002. She and her husband Travis have a powerful passion for hunting and the outdoors. “I was fortunate to have a dad who never minded having a girl tag along with him. So, between my brother and my dad, they would always let me tag along. And, I started out squirrel hunting with them,” said Dee Hendricks. “Just growing up doing that, then I just became an avid outdoorsman. I love to shoot. I love to hunt. And, I love to fish.”
“And now you’re teaching your family to shoot, to hunt and to fish,” said Mike Huether.
“Absolutely,” said Dee Hendricks.
Travis and Dee certainly are doing that and more. Their high school freshman daughter Savanah, 12-year-old son Cyrus and 6-year-old daughter Sierra have been taught the virtues of hunting, fishing and being outdoors since birth. Savanah proves it.
“It doesn’t even have to be hunting. It could just be going for a walk outdoors. I mean, some kids, they’re just always inside and it’s just sometimes, so relaxing and fun just to get outdoors into that fresh air. And, it’s, it’s good for you too,” said Savanah Hendricks.
Savanah started hunting alongside her Dad when she was only 4 years old. She carried a toy gun.
“She loved being with the older people and watching what they were doing. And she learned right away at four, that you don’t walk in front or behind someone. You walk right beside them for the safety of the line. Carrying her toy gun. So, we think it is kind of funny that now it’s one of her biggest passions,” said Dee Hendricks.
Savanah and her family are hooked on fishing and hunting and have made it a mission to get other youth and their families pumped about it as well. Their Jones County ranch provides the perfect setting.
“We have hosted several youth fishing days, and we’ve hosted several youth pheasant hunt days,” said Dee Hendricks, “We call in favors from all of our friends. We’re, there’s a lot of great lodges around this area, and we’ve been really fortunate to have those people come and spend the day with us. And, they bring amazing dogs to hunt behind as well.
Taniya Bethke of the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, has seen first hand the impact the Hendricks family has made.
“It’s a little unusual to have a family, not only working, praying, living, but they’re hunting together. But then, they’re motivating others to do the same thing. Talk about that,” prompted Mike Huether.
“They reach out to their school. They reach out to their church. The reach out to their 4-H chapter to get everybody involved in this, whether their parents are engaged on their own or not. I mean, I think that they’re true sponsors of the sport,” said Taniya Bethke.
The first youth fishing and youth hunt on the Hendricks’ ranch was in 2010. So much has been taught during that time. “The most important thing that they’re going to learn is gun safety. You have all day to hunt. You only get to shoot three birds, so there’s, you don’t need to be in a hurry,” said Dee Hendricks.
They also learn about nesting habitat, food plots, programs like R3, 4-H, and CRP, the importance of ditches, grasses, conservation and so much more.
“When those students or youth are out in the field, we try to mention all those different things and we try to point out different things, so that the kids see the value and why that’s there,” said Dee Hendricks.
The education has not only occurred in the fields of Jones County, but at the state capital in Pierre as well. Savanah led the charge to extend the youth pheasant hunting season in South Dakota.
“In the past, we only had five days. So, we had it the first Saturday in October, and it was always closed Wednesday at dusk. So, for the students and the athletes, they really couldn’t utilize Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday,” said Dee Hendricks.
Many students are involved in extracurricular activities, so that hampered them from hunting during that limited 5-day period. Savanah finds ways to balance her school work, volleyball, basketball, track, cheer, 4-H and so much more with her love of hunting. She wants other youth to do the same.
“Hunting has been a part of my life since I was born. And it’s very important to me to try to get other youth involved, so hunting doesn’t just disappear in the future,” said Savanah Hendricks.
She testified to committee members to extend the youth hunting season. Savanah nailed it dead center. “She changed the youth pheasant hunt season dates. She wanted two full weekends, and she ended up getting it to nine full days,” said Dee Hendricks.
“Youth can go out and hunt and enjoy South Dakota, enjoy the camaraderie, enjoy the memories. Savanah made that happen at what age?” asked Mike Huether.
“Thirteen,” answered Dee Hendricks.
“Nice job, Mom,” said Mike Huether.
“I only asked for two weekends, but they gave me more than I asked for, so it was just awesome. So, I cannot wait to use those extra days,” said Savanah Hendricks.
“This is the first year?” asked Mike Huether.
“Yes,” said Savanah Hendricks.
“Congratulations, Savanah,” said Mike Huether.
“Thank you,” said Savanah Hendricks.
“She’s an incredible role model to show that you can engage in a broad diversity of things. And, that your family can make room for other folks to come out and engage in outdoor recreation. I mean, the Hendricks family, I think has done marvelous things for outdoor recreation in South Dakota,” said Taniya Bethke.
All right KELOLAND, it’s high time to get back out there fishing and hunting and you need to bring your kids, your grandkids, and your neighbor’s kids with you too. Even if you are watching the action from the truck.
“The first thing we do after we shoot something when we’re hunting, is to look to see the reaction of the one sitting next to us. So, there’s no greater feeling than sharing that with someone that you love,” said Dee Hendricks, “And then we also know that we’re going to eat well that night.”
Hunting with folks you care about, making memories and enjoying the outdoors is what it is all about. And remember, missing is no big deal.
“It’s fun to shoot, but you don’t have to hit it every single time. It’s fun just once to miss, once in a while, too. It’s kind of funny,” said Savanah Hendricks.
“Well, thank you, because I miss my fair share Savanah,” said Mike Huether.
“I do too,” said Savanah Hendricks.
Taylor and I were treated to an incredible meal at the dinner table of the Hendricks family. Oh my goodness, Travis and Dee cooked up a mouth-watering roast, amazing cheesy potatoes, homemade smoked cheese, a delicious salad and what maybe the most decadent desert I have ever tasted.
If you want the desert recipe, you’ll find it here.