By Associated Press - Sunday, October 19, 2014

CHELSEA, S.D. (AP) - Three generations of a family converged in a northeast South Dakota field this weekend to participate in one of the state’s foremost traditions: The pheasant opener.

Bob, John and Ben, all sharing the Donner last name, traveled 180 miles from Clara City, Minnesota, to Chelsea, South Dakota, in hopes of hunting a few roosters, the Aberdeen American News ( ) reported Sunday.

John Donner, 63, said his father has always been a remarkable shot.

“Shot four shells and got three roosters,” said Bob Donner, who turns 90 next month. He has been hunting at the Steve and Mary Swanhorst farm in Faulk County for about 15 years. John Donner has made the trip about five times.

Saturday was the first day of the season that runs through Jan. 4. Officials say they expected the opener to draw the usual crowd of thousands even after an unusually low harvest in 2013.

Pheasant numbers have fallen statewide in recent years and the state saw an unusual decline last year. Hunters killed about 980,000 birds in 2013 - the lowest since 1990 - and with that the state licensed the lowest number of pheasant hunters since 1997, according to data provided by the wildlife department.

But hunters are hopeful this year, especially following a positive survey of young birds in August. The state’s annual brood count survey found an average of 2.68 pheasants per mile, a 76 percent increase from 1.52 in 2013.

The Donners during the trip sleep in an ice house that John Donner made, and on Saturday, they grilled a pheasant wrapped in bacon.

“You think we’re roughing it, but we’re really not at all,” Ben Donner, 32, said.

Bob Donner said he enjoyed shooting birds and “being with the guys.” It’s good, he said, to “get out of the rocking chair.”


Information from: Aberdeen American News,

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