by Bob Mercer
Trend became visible in recent years before bird populations fell off
License sales show pheasant hunting lost popularity among South Dakota hunters in recent years.
Only 57,677 South Dakotans bought licenses that could be used for hunting in 2013. That was the smallest number in 40 years or more.
Lower sales have become a trend.
In the past five seasons, South Dakotans bought less than 70,000 licenses every year except 2010.
License sales hadn’t been below 70,000 for at least 40 years.
The 57,677 sold in 2013 was less than half of the 126,000 sold in 1974.
The long decline in sales of resident licenses coincides with the gradual increase in non-resident hunters visiting South Dakota.
Sales in 1993 were 78,900 residents and 45,500 nonresidents.
From 1994 to 2008, resident sales stayed in a fairly tight band, ranging between a low of 70,573 in 1997 to a high of 84,342 in 1999.
Meanwhile, nonresident sales skyrocketed.
They jumped nearly 20,000 for the 1994 season, hitting 65,200. After a dip in 1997 to 42,808, they took off again and kept climbing.
Nonresidents outnumbered South Dakotans for the first time in 2002. That has been the case ever since.
Nonresidents reached a record of 103,231 in 2007 while South Dakotans numbered 77,879.