Inspirational, unstoppable and self-assured are just a few words one might use to describe S.D. Gov. Kristi Noem. Known for her leadership in protecting personal freedoms across the Mount Rushmore State, this mother, rancher, small business owner, best-selling author and lifelong hunter will be presented with the 2023 NRA Distinguished Hunters Leadership Award on the eve of the NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits in Indianapolis on Apr. 13.
Presented by the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum during its annual Dinner and Awards Ceremony at the historic Indiana Roof Ballroom from 6-9 p.m., the award recognizes exceptional leadership in the hunting and wildlife conservation arena. It celebrates Gov. Noem’s accomplishments in promoting hunters and hunting and the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation—the world's most successful system of policies and laws that secure fish and wildlife species and their habitats through active, science-based management.
The New York Times bestselling author of “Not My First Rodeo: Lessons Learned from the Heartland,” Gov. Noem embodies the core values of the hunter. She enjoys sharing how hunters help to conserve and restore wildlife species while working to bridge the gap of understanding between hunters and non-hunters when it comes to how wildlife is managed, the role hunting plays in that management and who funds it.
As governor, she says that a blessed life of true grit is what taught her how to lead. She respects the rights of South Dakotans, trusting them to exercise their personal responsibility to make the best decisions for themselves, their families and their communities. Fellow hunters will remember how she made headlines during the Covid-19 pandemic, promoting the need to build stronger families and keep South Dakota “Open for Business.”
Perhaps her most popular social media post during that time was a 15-second pheasant hunting video showing her shooting a pheasant out of the sky with the message “Less Covid, more hunting, that’s the plan for the future.” The video received millions of views and tens of thousands of shares and retweets. “This is how we do social distancing in South Dakota,” she said, in step with a letter the NRA and several other hunter-backed groups signed and sent to America’s governors during the pandemic, urging them to keep public lands open for “America’s most traditional form of social distancing—hunting.” Gov. Noem chose to support hunters and campaigned for us to get out in the field, understanding that hunters aid wildlife, its habitat and the economy.
As explained on her official website, pheasant hunting season is a major economic engine for South Dakota and a significant contributor to tourism, the state’s second largest industry. “Each year, 81,000 nonresident hunters flock to our state for hunting season and spend more than $156 million in our restaurants, hotels, gift shops and gas stations,” she notes. “That money makes a real difference for families and small businesses.”
Proud to talk about her family’s ties to hunting and the outdoors, in 2021 she told Fox News, “For us, hunting is a way of life. To be here with my kids and to enjoy it is something I think my dad and grandpa … would appreciate, that some things change really fast in this world today, but some things never change and that’s what’s important.”
During a fall 2022 interview with South Dakota news site MitchellNow.com, Noem said, “Every pheasant season brings me back to those cherished memories of the hunting trips I had with my father and grandmother. As this year’s pheasant season kicks off, I am reliving these memories and reflecting on our efforts to find ways to ensure that pheasant hunting continues to be a part of South Dakota’s culture for generations to come.”
While she is credited with numerous achievements as governor—and prior to that as a state legislator and then a member of the U.S. House of Representatives—after speaking with her on multiple occasions in recent years, it is clear that she feels her greatest accomplishment is raising her three children, Kassidy, Kennedy and Booker. Guided by her love of the Lord, her family and country, she remains front and center in promoting hunters, hunting and an understanding of the biological principles upon which wildlife management is based.
Gov. Noem was elected as South Dakota's first female governor in 2018, running on a platform of protecting South Dakotans against tax increases, government growth, federal intrusion and government secrecy. She was re-elected in 2022 with the largest vote total in state history.
Thank you, Gov. Noem, for your initiative and stewardship in working to sustain our way of life. As an article in NRA’s America’s First Freedom noted, women relate to her warm personality and men often want to compete with her grit.
Fittingly, when she is not serving her state, she can be found on her family’s South Dakota ranch or out hunting. A force to admire, Gov, Noem is right in step with the South Dakota state motto: “Under God the people rule.”
For tickets to the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum Dinner and Awards Ceremony at the historic Indiana Roof Ballroom from 6-9 p.m., click here.