There was a time when it was common for a hunter to flush hundreds of pheasants from a weed patch while walking in South Dakota.
It was like Christmas for the cash registers of many small towns as out-of-state hunters flocked into the state by the thousands to pursue the Chinese ring-necked pheasant.
Those days may be returning. The pheasant population of South Dakota is widely reported as the best in many years. Hunters from across the nation are arriving in droves.
The seasonal economic boost to local businesses selling supplies, food and rooms made rural communities eager for the annual October ritual.
Not everyone looked forward to it. Farmers back then were busy "posting" their lands, because no hunter could be charged with trespassing unless the land was posted with a sign.
Things have changed. We no longer need to post our lands. Hunters are required to ask for permission. Many landowners are now sharing in the financial rewards by charging a fee to hunt or by leasing their land to Game Fish & Parks for public hunting.
I recently saw a Web page on pheasant hunting that listed more than 60 commercial pheasant hunting outfitters in South Dakota.
The Web page claimed South Dakota has incomparable pheasant hunting because it has all three essentials for good pheasant hunting, "habitat, habitat and habitat." That is probably true, but it's not free.
Hunters and their guides should remember that landowners provided that habitat and mostly at their personal expense.
Many people have no idea what it costs to own land. Land prices and taxes are soaring. The privilege of owning land costs many thousands of dollars annually, and in some cases conservation payments from the government are less than the taxes.
In many ways, today is better than the "good old days" of the pheasant boom that followed the soil bank era of the 1950s.
Conservation efforts and mild winters provided another pheasant boom. Hunting laws are better. Landowners are reaping some of the economic benefits of their conservation efforts. Hunting groups are teaching "ethics" to their members.
If everyone shows a little respect for the other guy, landowners and hunters will get along fine during our pheasant season.
That was not always the case, but we are getting better at it. Have a good hunt!