Pheasant Hunt SD '06
Going back a few years there's a story about being very lucky that leads into the '06 hunt. On one of our early SD hunts, 10-15 years ago, Dan and I were scouting new country looking for different places to hunt. We saw a young fellow outside feeding cattle and stopped to ask permission. Turns out it was his grandfathers land and gramps was in the hospital. The grandson wasn't sure about letting us hunt but eventually said ok and described the property boundaries. We were really excited when he said it included 160 acres of standing corn just to the south since that's where we knew the birds would be.
There was 18 inches of ice crusted snow you could walk on for a few steps. Then you'd fall through or you'd break through every other step just when thinking it was going to hold you up.
This was before I had started hunting with poodles and SD had more birds then you could ever imagine, although that winter darn near wiped them out. The die off was tremendous. It took many years for them to fully recover. We had two labs but discovered they were flushing everything well out of range. They and the birds could run on top, no way we could. We put the dogs back in the truck. It wasn't long before we heard a snowmobile approaching with a very upset driver. The corn field we were in did not belong to the young guys grandfather. The real owner was now chewing our ass and about to have us arrested.
He finally decided we were telling him the truth about his neighbor sending us there. He was impressed with the fact we were a mile from our truck on foot in extremely tough conditions and had so far killed only one rooster. He complained about everyone he catches trespassing on his 4000 acre ranch (all unbelievable pheasant habitat) only road hunt through it on his private tractor paths. He decided we could hunt for the rest of the day but to stop in at his house before leaving. He wanted to check our birds for possible long tail feathers he might enter in the local competition. I was a little worried the Sheriff would be there waiting. We did stop, chatted a long time and before leaving he told us to hunt another day.
We have become his friends. He does allow other hunters for a price onto his property. He has never asked us to pay. I do not believe in paying to hunt. We do send him and his family a gift for Christmas and never hunt his land more then one or two days. We have also helped him out with work during corn harvest times and never show up expecting to hunt with more then just the two of us.
When we stopped this fall to visit and hunt he said that so far hunters had harvested 760 roosters but was sure there were plenty left. He advised twenty hunters from Sioux Falls opening day had killed 60 birds in 45 minutes, and this was a drought year.
We hunt Dec. and the birds by that time are extremely wild. This year due to the drought conditions our other spots didn't have the birds we normally find. We decided to save our friends ranch for the last two days (Thurs. and Fri.) planning on getting an early start for home knowing plenty of birds would be there. Thurs. there was a wind advisory. It was blowing 40-50 mph. We hunted only standing corn. It was so loud in the corn the birds could not hear us or the dogs coming. I kept Beau and Scout practically at heel the entire time for fear of losing them. We'd surprise a flock of mostly roosters flushing 10-15 birds at once. It didn't matter if we hunted into or with the wind at our backs. I've never seen anything like it. We stayed away from trying doubles, too easy to miss mark the first one down and then cripple the second one going away down wind 70 mph.
Once a single bird was dropped I'd release the poodles to find it. There was no need to let them hunt free lance. We could walk right into the middle of flocks. They'd figure out we were there, too late, flush but only go 200-300 yards before settling back down in the corn.
Friday the wind died and it was a totally different game. Getting close enough for a shot in the corn was next to impossible. We switched to the sloughs. The poodles had a lot more fun finding birds but getting close was still tough. Most of them were back in the corn. By 1:00 PM we still needed two birds to fill. Walking the edge of the last slough we dropped the two we needed. The one I hit went down alive. Beau and Scout had a long hunt before finally finding it. It wasn't dead but being in a hurry I stuck it in my vest. Back at the truck to head out Dan complained I should finish it off. He tried to reach in there to grab it. I told him to leave it alone but he insisted, pulled it out and you guessed it, dropped it. It took off running. Beau and Scout spotted it. The chase was on but the bird flew. My gun was empty, Dan's wasn't . He took careful aim as the bird cleared the dogs headed straight for the corn going straight away and missed. I laughed long and hard, so did Dan.
There was no way we could leave after that one bird short. It took another half hour to find it and I made darn sure I beat Dan on the draw. As you can see from the picture I took prior to going back out to fill our limit there are only 5 roosters. Why do you suppose that is Dan?
Since we've hunted SD with Beau first, joined by Scout 2 years later, Dan and I have never left without our limit of 30 roosters. We seldom lose any, thanks entirely to great dog work.