Tom Brokaw Pays Tribute to ‘Opening Day’ of Pheasant Season

Tom Brokaw on a recent Pheasant Hunt in South Dakota. Photo courtesy of NBC Sports.
Tom Brokaw on a recent pheasant hunt in South Dakota. Photo courtesy of NBC Sports.

As an avid sportsman, I’m always pleasantly surprised when I see national media outlets featuring positive stories about hunting and fishing.

Last week, retired NBC “Nightly News” anchorman Tom Brokaw explored the cultural and economic impacts of pheasant season in a one-hour special entitled “Opening Day.” The educational and entertaining program, which premiered on NBC Sports Network on Nov. 19, showed Brokaw, 74, hunting in his home state of South Dakota where pheasant season has become a $200-million-a-year industry.

“I’ve had this theory for a long time that an important part of American culture and the economy are opening days,” said Brokaw in an interview with MSNBC. “We don’t pay a lot of attention to it on the Eastern Seaboard and in the West — but there are opening days of pheasant season in South Dakota, deer hunting in Pennsylvania, ducks in Arkansas, minor league baseball in the Southeast, Friday night lights in Texas.”

Here in Colorado, opening day, in its various forms, is an even bigger economic juggernaut. The facts are truly staggering: Hunting and fishing provide more than $1.8 billion in economic activity, rivaling the ski industry in total revenue generated. Hunting and fishing also support more than 21,000 full-time jobs and are the only recreational activities that benefit every county in the state.

Additionally, the revenue generated from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses supports all of Colorado’s wildlife management efforts, including threatened and endangered species programs, wildlife reintroductions and fish stocking. Because Colorado Parks and Wildlife does not receive general tax dollars to fund its wildlife and fishery management programs, these projects are paid for almost exclusively by sportsmen.

As hunters, most of us already understand and appreciate the significance of opening day for myriad reasons, whether we’re gearing up for elk season in the high mountains, pursuing deer on the Western Slope or hunting pheasants or waterfowl on the Eastern Plains. However, TV programs like this one remind us of the bigger picture and, most important, serve as an effective tool to educate nonhunters about the critical role that hunters and anglers play in wildlife management, habitat conservation and in supporting local and national economies.

Here’s hoping that “Opening Day” becomes an ongoing series and that Brokaw visits Colorado in the near future. We’ll have an over-the-counter bull elk license waiting for him.

Click below to watch an interview with Tom Brokaw.
Be sure to check NBC Sports Network for encore presentations of “Opening Day.”

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