CODINGTON COUNTY, S.D. (KELO) — According to the Game, Fish and Parks Department, more than one million pheasants were harvested in South Dakota during last year’s hunting season. That averages out to about nine pheasants per hunter.

Pheasant season is in full swing once again.

Back in 2001, a group of hunters noticed that the pheasant numbers in Codington County were declining.

“Because when the water was so high, a lot of the low habitat that they live in was not there anymore,” says Director of CCPP Brad Meier.

They wanted to help the population grow, so they decided to create the Codington County Pro Pheasants.

“That was really what got us started. We had a Pheasants Forever group for many years and then that kind of fizzled and then we didn’t have any pheasant group at all,” says Meier.

“I believe 2002 is when I got involved with the organization. And you see the pheasant population fluctuates over the years, weather is a big part of it,” says CCPP member Cliff Kriese.

Food plots are just one of the five targets that they have in order to keep pheasant numbers healthy in the area.

“Predator control, food plots, trees, and we help with the cost of releasing hens every spring,” says Meier.

“I’ve been taking care of the traps for many, many years for the organization, and they are made in South Dakota now. So that’s another feather in our cap, we keep things local,” says Kriese.

They also help provide habitat areas for pheasants, but without the support of area landowners, their efforts would be useless.

“We rely on landowners, but we do compensate landowners for doing their food plots $30 an acre, up to ten acres. And again, they can harvest that after the year. They can go to Game, Fish and Parks and I won’t say double dip, but they can be compensated in more ways than just us,” says Kriese.

It’s not just landowners who are impacted. Everyone in the area can benefit from a healthy pheasant population.

“It’s certainly an economic situation of a lot of dollars are generated in South Dakota, a lot of them are in very small towns west of here and all over the place. We wanted to kind of get that back to Watertown a little bit. So the merchants are kind of involved in helping us make this thing happen and our big thing is to restore the pheasant population and therefore hopefully the hunters will come and they do come from a long ways away and they spend money,” says Meier.

“It’s not just about pheasant conservation, it’s conservation, it’s about wildlife. I’m an avid deer hunter, you know, so I’m out deer hunting and I’m looking at pheasants, and I’m pheasant hunting and I’m looking at deer. You know, there’s waterfowl, there’s migratory animals. You know, I saw a flock coming through the other night. You know, if you’re not out in our lovely country, you’re sitting on your couch, you’re missing the world,” says Kriese.

Whether it’s for hunters in or out of state, pheasant hunting is a staple in South Dakota.

“Hunting’s a wonderful thing, a natural thing in South Dakota, a family get together. And I think it’s just something that we really look forward to every fall,” says Meier.

Each year they have a banquet to help raise money to compensate landowners for their food plots.

Click here for more information on the Codington County Pro Pheasants.

Call 605-889-1225 if you are interested in joining the group.