Opening day in South Dakota is a big deal. Real big. Thousands of hunters from around the world flood into Sioux Falls on packed flights. Families and friends come together for the weekend. Guys in camo flock to Cabelas’ store in Mitchell like birds to spilled grain.
It’s easy to understand why. The number of birds you see can see in South Dakota in a day is astonishing — 250+ is pretty easy.
Here’s a pic from opening day in SD a few years ago. This was after about an hour of hunting.
Unfortunately, days like these may not exist in the future.
This article from the 4/8 New York Times talks about why: As Prices Rise, Farmers Spurn Conservation Program.
As commodity prices have rocketed up, farmers are putting more land into production — as much as the Rhode Island and Delaware combined — and making more money. Good for them.
Unfortunately, their success is bad for us hunters. A lot of land they’re putting into production used to be set aside for the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). And the less land we have in the CRP, the less birds we’ll see come fall.
The USDA’s Farm Service Agency started the CRP in 1985 with the Food Security Act. This program makes annual payments on 10-15 year contracts to people who establish grass, shrub, and tree cover on environmentally sensitive land. The program was reauthorized in the 1996 and 2002 Farm Bills and it is up for reauthorization right now.
To make sure the CRP continues and is well funded, please contact your congress person. Let them know how important this programs is to you and how our hunting dollars impact states like South Dakota.
I also suggest joining groups that support conservation in general. Here are a few I like:
More about the CRP program:
More about how the Farm Bills affect on America’s Farms: