Rooster Road Trip South Dakota Recap
There’s an almost-blaze orange truck parked in front of the motel, and half the people here – even while working – sport some of the color themselves. Bird dogs are on equal footing, and probably should be counted as part of the population. And there’s more public ground to hunt than probably anywhere in pheasant country. Even in this state that bills itself as “The Pheasant Capital,” the city of Aberdeen and Brown County stand out as bird crazy.
The first stop during Pheasants Forever’s Rooster Road Trip 2012 day in South Dakota was The Airport cafe, where the only thing hotter than the coffee was the pheasant hunting talk. And that’s where our group for the day assembled, including Emmett Lenihan, Pheasants Forever’s Farm Bill Biologist in the region, Chris Goldade, resource biologist for the South Dakota Game Fish and Parks and treasurer with the local Northern South Dakota Pheasants Forever chapter, and Mike Stephenson, Pheasants Forever’s Regional Representative in South Dakota. Over the best pancakes in town and platefuls of 747 burritos, the talk naturally turned to pheasant habitat. Goldade, who has designed habitat plans for years, said he tries to create as much edge habitat as he can when drawing up property plans, and reminded us that pheasants are “edge birds.” On this day, he’d be proven right.
The first field stop was at the Casanova Wildlife Management Area, a public piece of which the Northern South Dakota chapter has been a major contributor. Grass, food plots, cattails – this place has lots of edges – and a half hour into the hunt, that’s where a rooster found himself, briefly, before being neatly tucked into Andrew Vavra’s game vest; even in pheasant rich South Dakota, a public land rooster is well earned.
The dogs got some well-deserved down time before we reassembled for “The Golden Hour” hunt, which took place on some new walk-in Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) acres north of Aberdeen. Another place with lots of edge, this in the form of grass, food plots, fence lines and old two tracks. A missed golden opportunity right at the beginning of the day’s last march looked like it would be a moment that haunts. But with just minutes left on the shooting clock, the field coming to break and the sun offering up its last glimpse of the day, the stage was set for another unforgettable hunting memory. South Dakota didn’t disappoint; it rarely does.
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