South Dakota has counted pheasants each year since the 1940s, providing consistent data to measure how well our wildlife conservation efforts are working. But decreasing counts can be bad for tourism, so the state is canceling those counts:
Game, Fish and Parks Secretary Kelly Hepler recommended that the brood surveys be dropped. Hepler said the results haven’t led to changes in the pheasant season, and in years when the pheasants per mile index was down, the news hurt marketing, even though South Dakota still was “head and shoulders” better than other states.
“Then the question becomes, what is the purpose of it?” Hepler said.
…[C]ommissioner Russ Olson of Wentworth… said 2020 is “the perfect year to stop doing it.”
“We’re running a business here. You have to remember that,” Olson said. “It (the index) hurts us more than it helps us. It’s time to move on,” Olson said [Bob Mercer, “State Government Plans to Pay to Promote S.D. Pheasant Hunting, Will Halt Brood-Route Counts,” KELO-TV, 2020.06.04].
Russ and Kelly plan to trade hard data for fluffy advertising, $700,000 worth to convince hunters to come back to South Dakota:
Paid advertising that starts in mid-June will cover 16 states and run through November….
The state Tourism Department will run the advertising campaign for the state Game, Fish and Parks Department. Each department is contributing $350,000.
…The campaign will use advertising agencies Lawrence and Schiller of Sioux Falls and MMGY Global of Kansas City, Missouri.
The ads will target traditionalists who want to keep hunting alive, lapsed-use hunters whose circumstances haven’t allowed them to stay in the field, and adventure hunters, according to Mike Gussiaas, another Tourism Department official.
The theme: “Hunt the greatest” [Mercer, 2020.06.04].
Once again, South Dakota chooses marketing mirages over real data. Pheasants? Shutting down data collection and doling out more marketing cash makes it sound like a better state bird would be the ostrich.