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Pheasant season generates plenty of excitement for outdoorsy South Dakotans like this bunch of Gregory County hunters. Photo by Bernie Hunhoff.
Pheasant season generates plenty of excitement for outdoorsy South Dakotans like this bunch of Gregory County hunters. Photo by Bernie Hunhoff.

Do You Remember Opening Day?

Oct 11, 2012

Anyone who has lived in a small South Dakota town has experienced the flurry of excitement generated on Opening Day of the pheasant hunting season. Sportsmen and sportswomen hurry from store to store, gathering licenses, shotgun shells, sweet rolls and orange caps — all required gear these days if you are to successfully pursue the wily ringneck.

It's the same in almost every town, varied only by the weather — cold drinks for warm autumn afternoons and coffee or hot chocolate for the gray, brisk days.

When my brothers and I were growing up on a Utica farm, Opening Day seemed festive because dad took off work to guide our city uncles who came to hunt. Any day that dad wasn't on a tractor in spring, summer or fall was like a holiday and good reason to celebrate. Since no one had a hunting dog, we got to tag along to beat the bushes, find the downed birds and then carry them. Why did that seem like fun?

When we were old enough, we'd hurry home from school during hunting season to change into some clothes that didn't matter if they got "stick-tight" on them, then grab a 20 gauge and head for the nearest cornfield.

Those were the days when shells were cheap and pheasants plentiful. I could take a box of shells out and shoot all 25 of them — sometimes all at the same pheasant — in an hour or two.

We had a sharpshooter in the family. Dave had a double barrel 12 gauge, and could generally get his three-bird limit without leaving the end rows. Maybe that's why he was county sheriff for 32 years and I'm still trying to hit the right key on my laptop?


09:05 pm - Fri, October 19 2012
Jim said:
Opening day ain't what it used to be.There is three opening days now.First the youth,then residents only and tomorrow the statewide opening for everyone.That's not counting the preserves shooting released birds from September to March. All these ''opening'' days came about from legitimate concerns, but I think we really lost something.The atmosphere is diminished from the time when young, old, rural and urban all gathered at once and started reenacting a great tradition at the same time all across the state.
Having said that we still have it pretty good.The birds are still the same, the season is longer and there is more public land then I've ever seen. Any hunters reading Lee's columns will be as anxious to get started tomorrow as I am.
If you want to see some images of the good old days checkout the vintage film links on the magazine's facebook page.
The weather looks great tomorrow and we will take a short drive and do something people have traveled from all over the nation to experience.

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