Efforts to improve public hunting areas are underway for local Pheasants Forever leaders.
The Community Based Habitat Access Program (CBHAP) is up and running in Mitchell, with two sites on board and three more soon to be fully committed, as well. That will amount to 300 acres of public access areas near Mitchell by the end of June, bolstered by the efforts of the CBHAP. The initial goal is for the Mitchell area to have about 4,000 acres implemented in the local program, which aims to improve on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Conservation Reserve Program, or CRP. Grasslands enrolled in CRP are seen as some of the most important lands needed to help cultivate the pheasant population in the state, and the number of acres enrolled in the program have decreased in recent years, as have South Dakota's pheasant numbers.
Dan DeBoer, a Pheasants Forever farm bill biologist based in Mitchell, said they're looking for donations or partnerships with area businesses to fund additional land for the program.
"The idea behind it is that the more public access we have, the more hunters we have here in our area and the more money that is spent here with local businesses to help our economy," DeBoer said.
Mitchell's program got off to a big start because of the $150,000 commitment made in December by the Mitchell Pheasants Forever chapter, Pheasant Country, which DeBoer estimates will help fund that 4,000-acre goal.
The funding provided by the CBHAP is meant to "sweeten the pot," DeBoer said, along with the CRP and walk-in funding provided by South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks.
"The big advantage is that we provide another financial boost to that program to allow landowners the chance to have it make sense for them," DeBoer said.
The program is based off the Aberdeen Pheasant Coalition, which has committed $100,000 since 2016 for 1,464 acres of public walk-in hunting areas. DeBoer also cited figures from GF&P research, which indicates that for every $1 invested into a walk-in program, $15 returns to the community in local spending.