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There is a whole lot of country between NYC and San Francisco, and a lot of it looks nothing like the High Line or the Mission District. Lots of hunters from around the country want to “live like a local,” and shoot pheasants in South Dakota. There is a market for that.
The start of pheasant season is less than two months away, but most hotels in Aberdeen, South Dakota, already have been booked to capacity or near capacity by hunters who have made pheasant hunting in South Dakota an annual family tradition.
“That’s the great thing about hunting in South Dakota. It’s a tradition not just for in-state hunters but also out-of-state hunters,” Randy Grismer, general manager of the Best Western Ramkota Hotel said. “Fathers take their sons hunting and, over the years, their sons have kids and the fathers become grandfathers.”
Grismer said the Ramkota, which has 154 rooms, is almost fully booked from Oct. 17-21 by hunters who want to be in fields on Oct. 19, the first day of the season for nonresidents.
Several other hotels in the area, including the Ramada Inn and Convention Center, the Comfort Inn and all three Super 8 Motels, also have reported being nearly full during that timeframe.
“I think there’s some sort of cachet to being out there on opening weekend, just like many other sports,” Grismer said.
Sara Kohlman, the front desk manager for the 152-room Ramada, said many hunters book the rooms a year in advance because they know the closer it gets to pheasant season, the tougher it is to find a room.
“People who want to book now have a chance,” Kohlman, who has five years of experience with the Ramada, said. “But I would say that, next month, there will be pretty slim pickings.”
Several of the hunters that she sees on a year-to-year basis fly in from Florida, Georgia and just about anywhere in the country, Kohlman said.
She said no one has canceled a hotel reservations as of Saturday night, despite the grim report on the pheasant population in South Dakota released by the state Game Fish and Parks Department on Friday.
Hunters will come because it’s what they love to do, she said.
“Hunters love to going to hunting, and they’re going to hunt no matter that the numbers are,” Kohlman said.
The GFP’s annual brood survey reported a 64 percent drop in the pheasant population statewide and a 55 percent drop in Brown County.
It’s impossible to say every guest who has booked a room during pheasant hunting season is a hunter, said Brenda Habeck, general manager of the 104-room Super 8 East in Aberdeen. However, the type of phone calls the hotel is getting indicates that hunters account for a large percentage of reservations in October.
“We are getting calls quite frequently on pheasant hunting, rates, availability,” she said. “I just took a phone call on availability in November.”
Habeck said there is more availability in September than in October, when pheasant hunting season begins in earnest.
“During that time (September), there’s not as much going on,” she said. “But hunting season is a really big event.”
Opening weekend is probably the most popular weekend, but lots of people prefer to book rooms further into the season, said Connie Dennert, a desk clerk at Super 8 West, which has 39 rooms, including six suites.
She said, every year, a group of 19 hunters, mostly from Texas, book 20 rooms on the weekend right after opening weekend.
“I’ve been here for 12 years, and I’ve booked them every year since I started working here,” Dennert said.
She said the same group comes back year after year because they love to hunt, they enjoy the routine and they enjoy the accommodations and hospitality offered in Aberdeen.
Pheasant hunting season begins Oct. 12 for South Dakota residents. Opening day for out-of-state hunters is Oct. 19.
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