Pheasant Rooster
Photo courtesy of South Dakota Department of Tourism

     The ring-necked pheasant is the state bird of South Dakota. It came from China. People brought the first pheasants here in the 1890s. Then the State Game Department began raising and releasing birds. Soon there were enough to hunt. The first pheasant-hunting season was in 1919. It was held in Spink County. Hunters were allowed to shoot just two male birds, or roosters. Only two hundred pheasants were killed that year. As the numbers of pheasants grew, so did the hunting season. Soon pheasant hunters could shoot more birds. In 1944, the season began in September and went through February of the next year. Hunters could shoot ten birds a day. Hunters shot more than six million pheasants that year. Today hunters cannot hunt for so long nor shoot so many birds. The limit is three male birds a day. The season is about two months long. People coming to the state to hunt are still important to South Dakota. They spend money at hotels, stores, restaurants, and gas stations.

Pheasant Hunters, 1926
Photo courtesy of South Dakota State Historical Society