Redfield, South Dakota: “Pleasant” Hunting Capital of the World
Monday, January 31, 2022
Pheasant hunting is both an American pastime and outdoor tradition which comes into play every fall, as hunting enthusiasts eagerly set out in pursuit of the “King of Gamebirds”. Requiring knowledge, skill, and persistence as one battles the elements of a wintry season, the thrill of success and defeat in pheasant hunting is what motivates the average hunter to pursue the wily rooster pheasant.
According to Realtree**, in 2016, migratory bird hunters spent $2.9 billion on goods and services. That’s more than the combined box office revenue for the top five movies that year. Additionally, upland bird hunters spent $1.8 billion on products and services directly related to their pursuits. Upland bird hunting supported 38,200 jobs in 2016, generating $351.8 million in federal tax revenues and $220.9 million in state and local tax revenues. (**https://business.realtree.com/business-blog/economic-impact-migratory-and-upland-bird-hunting)
Pheasant hunting has continued as a tradition for over 100 years in the town of Redfield, South Dakota, proving to be an incredible experience for people of all ages. Home to the new Spink County Chapter of Pheasants Forever and known for being the “Pheasant Capital of the World,” Redfield is an outstanding location – an easy drive for Minnesota and Wisconsin residents on Highway 212. For those who make the annual pilgrimage to the best pheasant hunting destination in the world, most can attest to the phenomenal wingshooting offered on the South Dakota prairies.
Redfield offers a seamless hunting experience
Randy Maddox, Mayor of Redfield and a passionate pheasant hunt enthusiast, talks about the whole experience. “The normal season begins around the 3rd Saturday of October and ends by the last weekend of January the following year. The crowd starts trickling in at the start of the season, but it is the die-hard enthusiasts who come later in the year - it is extremely cold around Christmas time but these folks like to hunt during this time, undisturbed and without any pressure.”
Maddox was born and raised in the city of Redfield, and for as long as he can remember, his family hosted pheasant hunting groups every season. “Back in the late 60s and early 70s’ we would have around 110 -120 airplanes parked in the local airport. Today, what we see a lot more mainly is repeat business - the same people love to visit every year. My wife and I have a farm where pheasant hunters come and stay 4-7days at a time. We have 2-4 groups a year. A lot of friendships are formed and the kind of bond that is shared between us and the hunters is phenomenal. I have met some really interesting people and that's what sustains us”, he asserts.
Every year, Redfield tax revenues see a sizable increase during the hunting season. Around 10,000 visitors pay obeisance on Redfield prairies and grasslands every year. Earlier, Maddox says, hotels spread around the city would host both individuals and families, there would be steak suppers uptown and stores would have a booming business. Now, with the onset of private lodge hunting, business is dispersed. Lodges host between 6 and 10 people for a week at a time. Around 80% of people are residents of other states and stay for at least 4 to 5 days. “They give Redfield substantial business - in the way of gas, convenience stores, shopping. In return, our community goes out of their way to ensure that their stay here is safe and comfortable”, Maddox says.
Nurturing a sustainable environment for the bird
According to bird hunters like Maddox, suitable habitat for pheasant hunting is paramount. Although predators like skunks and raccoons that get a lot of the eggs are usually blamed, the right habitat is everything. Pheasants do not have a very good defense mechanism so the habitat is a prime factor. The Mayor feels that the population of the bird is being maintained at Redfield. “There is a huge discussion in the pheasant industry about whether raised birds can survive or not. We turn out raised hens early in the spring so that they can reproduce. The death rate is pretty high - if we get a 20% survival rate we are happy. If the pheasant hen can survive for at least 30 days in the wild, then her instincts kick back in and she is then able to make it during the full season, and even through the year. Her potential to raise 10 chicks then becomes a possibility. Of course, the conditions have to be right - the weather conditions are crucial too”, he says.
The city of Redfield champions the hunting season every year. “Before the season, some organizations hold raffles to generate interest. The Redfield Chamber of Commerce carries out a banding of the birds each year - visitors are encouraged to bag these birds in return for rewards called Redfield Bucks. We also visit the Pheasant Fest that takes place across the country every year and invite participants there to the hunting season here,” Maddox states.
Redfield: Where both birds and visitors are welcome
The city of Redfield does its bit to keep the season going, even through the dampening sentiment that Covid brought about. “Our numbers have been steady all through Covid. At the Pheasant Fest, we give away prizes - one for $500 and another for $1000, in Redfield Bucks. So if you win you can come to Redfield and use those bucks for your hunting trip here”, Maddox affirms.
The other avenue that the city has been trying to explore is connecting to women chapters and helping them have a seamless hunting experience. “Some hotels offer them rooms at discounted rates and this makes them very happy”, Maddox says. One thing that worries him is the pheasant numbers. “A sufficient limit is a big factor in the whole game - a hunting license costs around $120. We worry about hunters coming here all the way and not getting to hunt their limit”, he says. “
But for a lot of people, it is more for camaraderie than for actually taking birds home. “People do not come here to hunt just for the meat. They are in it for the excitement, the heady rush when they bring a bird down, it is all about the experience”, Maddox claims.
A melting pot for memories and recollections
And for those who are meeting for the first time, the hunting experience is like a melting pot- -bringing people closer and forming a legacy of friendship that renews and revives, blossoms and bonds over the years.
Maddox says, “If you want to see me smile, bring out your kid, and your grandkid, and we shall go and hunt their first pheasant. That look, that excitement is so contagious that it is just fun to watch. I am in groups that have been hunting for over 20 years and more - we exchange old stories about our kids hunting for the first time, and have a good laugh. For us, meat is secondary.”
The outdoor-loving community of Redfield will agree. To the Pheasant Hunting Capital of the world, it is all about making new friends and enjoying old ones, while watching them have a good time. Everything else takes second place.
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