Posts Tagged ‘South Dakota pheasant hunting’
Monday, April 29th, 2013
Last year’s list of the 25 Best Pheasant Hunting Towns in America selected locales predominately based in the Midwest where the ringneck is king. Because Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever members hail from all reaches of the United States, from Alabama to Alaska, we’ve assembled this year’s list to include pheasants as well as multiple quail species, prairie grouse and even forest birds. The main criterion was to emphasize areas capable of providing multiple species, along with destinations most-welcoming to bird hunters. In other words, there were bonus points awarded for “mixed bag” opportunities and neon signs “welcoming bird hunters” in this year’s analysis. We also avoided re-listing last year’s 25 towns, so what you now have is a good bucket list of 50 destinations for the traveling wingshooter!
What towns did we miss? Let us know in the comments section.
1. Pierre, South Dakota. This Missouri River town puts you in the heart of pheasant country, but the upland fun doesn’t stop there. In 2011 (the last year numbers were available) approximately 30 roosters per square mile were harvested in Hughes County. Cross the river and head south of Pierre and you’re into the Fort Pierre National Grassland, where sharp-tailed grouse and prairie chickens become the main quarry. In fact, the U.S. Forest Service manages the Fort Pierre National Grassland specifically for these native birds. Just North of Pierre also boasts some of the state’s best gray (Hungarian) partridge numbers as well.
While you’re there: Myril Arch’s Cattleman’s Club Steakhouse goes through an average of 60,000 pounds of aged, choice beef a year, so they must know what they’re doing.
2. Lewistown, Montana. Located in the geographic center of the state, Lewistown is the perfect city to home base a public land upland bird hunt. Fergus County has ring-necked pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse, gray (Hungarian) partridge, as well as sage grouse. You’ll chase these upland birds with stunning buttes and mountain ranges as almost surreal backdrops, and find no shortage of publically accessible land, whether state or federally owned. Two keystone Pheasants Forever wildlife habitat projects are 45 minutes from Lewistown. Located six miles north of Denton, Montana, the 800-acre Coffee Creek BLOCK Management Area is located between a 320-acre parcel and an 880-acre parcel of land – all three areas are open to public hunting. Pheasants Forever also acquired a 1,000 acre parcel known as the Wolf Creek Property, a project which created 14,000 contiguous acres open to public walk-in hunting.
While you’re there: Once the birds have been cleaned and the dog has been fed, head over to the 87 Bar & Grill in Stanford for their house specialty smoked ribs and steaks.
3. Hettinger, North Dakota. Disregard state lines and you can’t tell the difference between southwest North Dakota and the best locales in South Dakota. Hettinger gets the nod in this region because of a few more Private Land Open to Sportsmen (P.L.O.T.S.) areas.
While you’re there: A visit north to the Pheasant Café in Mott seems like a must.
4. Huron, South Dakota. Home to the “World’s Largest Pheasant,” Huron is also home to some darn good pheasant hunting. From state Game Production Areas to federal Waterfowl Production Areas to a mix of walk-in lands, there’s enough public land in the region to never hunt the same area twice on a 5 or 10-day trip, unless of course you find a honey hole.
While you’re there: The Hwy. 14 Roadhouse in nearby Cavour has the type of good, greasy food that goes down guilt free after a long day of pheasant hunting.
5. Valentine, Nebraska. One of the most unique areas in the United States, the nearly 20,000 square mile Nebraska Sandhills region is an outdoor paradise, and Valentine, which rests at the northern edge of the Sandhills, was named one of the best ten wilderness towns and cities by National Geographic Adventure magazine in 2007. Because the Sandhills are 95 percent grassland, it remains one of the most vital areas for greater prairie chickens and sharp-tailed grouse in the country. Grouse can be found on the 19,000-acre Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge and the 115,000-acre Samuel McKelvie National Forest, and grouse and pheasants may be encountered on the 73,000-acre Valentine National Wildlife Refuge.
While you’re there: Head over to the Peppermill & E. K. Valentine Lounge and devour the Joseph Angus Burger, a finalist in the Nebraska Beef Council’s Best Burger Contest.
6. White Bird, Idaho. Hells Canyon is 8,000 feet of elevation, and at various levels includes pheasants, quail, gray partridge and forest grouse. Show up in shape and plan the right route up and down, and you may encounter many of these species in one day. It’s considered by many wingshooting enthusiasts to be a “hunt of a lifetime.” Nearly 40 percent of Idaho’s Hells Canyon is publically accessible, either through state-owned lands, U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands or U.S. Forest Service lands.
While you’re there: Floats and rafting adventures are popular on the Salmon River, in case your bird hunt also needs to double as a family vacation.
7. Heppner, Oregon. Nestled in the Columbia Basin, within a half-hour drive hunters have the opportunity to harvest pheasants, California quail, Huns, chukar, and in the nearby Blue Mountains, Dusky grouse, ruffed grouse and at least the chance of running into mountain quail. With the exception of the Umatilla National Forest for grouse, the hunting opportunity is mostly on private land in the area, but the state has a number of agreements in the area for private land access through its Open Fields, Upland Cooperative Access Program and Regulated Hunt Areas.
While you’re there: As you scout, make sure to drive from Highway 74, also called the Blue Mountain Scenic Byway, winding south from Interstate 84 through Ione, Lexington and Heppner.
8. Winnemucca, Nevada. Winnemucca claims legendary status as the “Chukar Captial of the Country.” Long seasons (first Saturday in October through January 31), liberal bag limits (daily limit of six; possession limit of 18) and the fact that these birds are found almost exclusively on public land make chukar Nevada’s most popular game bird. The covey birds do well here in the steep, rugged canyons that mirror the original chukar habitat of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the birds’ native countries. Just know the first time you hunt chukar is for fun, the rest of your life is for revenge.
While you’re there: Nearby Orovada, 44 miles to the north of Winnemucca, is known for excellent hunting areas as well as breathtaking views of the Sawtooth Mountains.
9. Albany, Georgia. Buoyed by tradition and cemented with a local culture built upon the local quail plantation economy, Albany has a reputation as the “quail hunting capital of the world” and a citizenry that embraces “Gentleman Bob.”
While you’re there: save an hour for the 60 mile trip South to Thomasville, Georgia where you can visit Kevin’s, a landmark sporting goods retailer devoted to the bird hunter.
10. Milaca, Minnesota. There are places in Minnesota where pheasants can be found in greater abundance, ditto for ruffed grouse. But there are few places where a hunter may encounter both in such close proximity. While pheasants are found primarily on private land here, state Wildlife Management Areas in the region offer a chance at a rare pheasant/grouse double, including the 40,000-acre Mille Laces WMA. The nearby Rum River State Forest provides 40,000 acres to search for forest birds.
While you’re there: For lunch, the Rough-Cut Grill & Bar in Milaca is the place. This isn’t the type of joint with a lighter portion menu, so fill up and plan on walking it all off in the afternoon…before you come back for supper.
11. Sonoita, Arizona. Central in Arizona’s quail triangle – the Patagonia/Sonoita/Elgin tri-city area – the crossroads of U.S. Highways 82 and 83 puts you in the epicenter of Mearns’ quail country, and 90 percent of the world’s Mearns’ hunting takes place in Arizona. Surrounded by scenic mountain ranges, the pups will find the hotels dog friendly, and moderate winter temps extend through the quail hunting season. Sonoita is also close to desert grasslands (scaled quail) and desert scrub (Gambel’s quail). After your Mearns’ hunt in the oak-lined canyons, you can work toward the Triple Crown.
12. Abilene, Kansas. A gateway to the Flint Hills to the north and central Kansas to the west, the two areas in recent years that have produced the best quail hunting in the Sunflower State.
13. Eureka, South Dakota. Legend has it the town’s name stems from the first settler’s reaction to all the pheasants observed in the area – “Eureka!”
14. Wing, North Dakota. Located just northeast of Bismarck, this town’s name is a clear indication of its premiere attraction. While primarily a waterfowler’s paradise, bird hunters looking to keep their boots dry can find pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse and Huns on ample public ground.
15. Redfield, South Dakota. By law, there can only be one officially trademarked “Pheasant Capital of the World” and Redfield is the owner of that distinction . . . and for good reason!
16. Tallahassee, Florida. Home to Tall Timbers, a partner non-profit focused on quail research, this north Florida town is steeped in the quail plantation culture and quail hunting tradition.
17. Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. This fisherman’s paradise also makes for an excellent October launching off point for the bird hunter. Head south toward Fergus Falls to bag your limit of roosters, then jog northeast to find ruffed grouse and timberdoodles amongst thousands of acres of public forest lands. Point straight west and you’ll find prairie chickens in nearby Clay County if you’re lucky enough to pull a Minnesota prairie chicken permit.
18. Park Falls, Wisconsin. For more than 25 years, Park Falls has staked its claim as the “Ruffed Grouse Capital of the World.” It’s more than just proclamation – more than 5,000 acres in the area are intensively managed as ruffed grouse and woodcock habitat.
19. Iron River, Michigan. Four-season recreation is Iron County’s claim to fame, and with the nearby Ottawa National Forest, it’s no coincidence the county bills itself as the woodcock capital of the world.
20. Lander, Wyoming. Wyoming is home to about 54 percent of the greater sage-grouse in the United States, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Wyoming manages millions of publically-accessible acres.
21. Miles City, Montana. Sharp-tailed grouse are well dispersed throughout southeast Montana, and the state boasts the highest daily bag limit – four birds – in the country. Thicker cover along riparian areas also provides chances at ringnecks. Did we mention there are roughly 2.5 million acres of publicly-accessible land in this region?
22. Spirit Lake, Iowa. The many Waterfowl Production Areas and their cattails make northwest Iowa a great late-season pheasant hunting option.
23. Holyoke, Colorado. Lots of Pheasants Forever and state programs – including walk-in areas – are at work in Phillips County which has made the rural, northeast Colorado town of Holyoke the state’s shining upland star.
24. Barstow, California. San Bernardino County is a top quail producer in the state, and the vast Mojave National Preserve is the most popular destination for hunters from throughout southern California, where wingshooters can also find chukar in addition to quail.
25. Anchorage, Alaska. From the regional hub of Anchorage, bird hunters can drive or fly to excellent hunting areas in all directions, which include ptarmigan, ruffed grouse and spruce grouse. To maximize your chances and stay safe here, consider hiring a guide.
Friday, April 12th, 2013
As a wildlife enthusiast who enjoys diverse landscapes, as well as a wingshooter who’s succumbed to the addiction of hunting wild ringnecks, it’s been nothing short of tragic to witness the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) – often referred to as the “holy grail” of conservation programs – withering away the past five years.
If you’re a pheasant hunter and a conservationist, you’ve likely seen these facts before, and even so, they bear repeating. Consider that:
- In prime pheasant habitat, a 4 percent increase in CRP grassland acres was associated with a 22 percent increase in pheasant counts (source: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture).
- In 2006, Pheasants Forever estimated of the then 36 million-plus CRP acres nationwide, 25.5 million constituted in the pheasant range were responsible for producing 13.5 million pheasants annually.
Unfortunately, the U.S. has lost 9.7 million acres of CRP land in just five years and there are now just 27 million CRP acres nationwide. This mass exodus of wildlife habitat has cut right through the heart of pheasant country.
|State||2007 CRP Acreage||2013 CRP Acreage||Percent Decline|
|South Dakota||1.56 million||978,257||37 percent|
|North Dakota||3.39 million||1.79 million||54 percent|
|Kansas||3.26 million||2.37 million||27 percent|
|Minnesota||1.83 million||1.4 million||23 percent|
|Nebraska||1.34 million||895,251||33 percent|
|Iowa||1.97 million||1.53 million||22 percent|
|Montana||3.48 million||2 million||42 percent|
In two states, South Dakota and Nebraska, total CRP acreage has fallen below 1 million acres, a baseline number many biologists and hunters feel is critical to maintaining quality pheasant numbers, as CRP is so essential for pheasant production.
While another 3.3 million acres expire from the program on September 30th, we have the opportunity to cancel out that loss with a four-week general signup for the Conservation Reserve Program that begins May 20. While landowners have trended away from CRP in today’s commodity crop-rich environment, CRP remains the single most effective and widest-ranging upland habitat tool in existence. And to help end the withering, Pheasants Forever strongly urges Congress to pass a new 5-year Farm Bill that includes a strong Conservation Reserve Program.
Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013
I caught myself doing something I vowed I’d never do: stuffing a bird I’d just shot into my game vest without taking a moment to really look at it and appreciate it. My reason for taking that vow is twofold: One, good hunters never take the taking of game for granted. Two, because every pheasant or quail or grouse or duck is different, each offering some little – or big – note of individuality.
One day hunting in South Dakota this fall, we laughed at what we called the “armadillo” bird – one particular pheasant humped over, looking like he had iridescent armor, scooting into the brush as if he really believed we couldn’t see him, reminding us of armadillos encountered on southern quail hunts. Some birds’ movements stick in my mind, their jumpy head twitches, rigid bodies on blurred legs, eyeballs swiveling between pointing dog and tall-standing hunter. Unloading my vest, I pondered a bird with two stumpy tail feathers and another with an oddly thick ring of white neck feathers.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about pheasants is those feathers – the colors and patterns. Many of us eventually take their beauty for granted. Up close or in the hand, it seems absurd that we sometimes can’t see a rooster on the ground just a few feet away. It’s true, though, that nestled in the brush, he’s got some of the best camo around when his vivid blues and purples magically play into the multicolor light reflected by the burnished edges of corn or late season junipers. Hens’ camouflage is just as good, with its light and dark mottling vanishing into the world of tan leaves and brown mud.
Then there are the sounds. Not just the classic cackle, but the slapping rush of wings or the scrabbly sound of spurred feet racing across dried cattail stalks.
Speaking of feet, across from my desk two dried woodcock feet hang on my bulletin board and a huge goose foot dangles from a cord over a lamp. Feathers and tail fans sprout on all the shelves of my bookcase alongside a small turtle shell, a coyote jaw, some moose teeth and a rattlesnake rattle.
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “Men who wish to know about the world must learn about it in its particular details.” The body parts I’m looking at aren’t souvenirs or trophies. They are the bearers of detail and information that I have the privilege of accessing via my time in the field.
Nancy Anisfield, an outdoor photographer/writer, sporting dog enthusiast and bird hunter, serves on Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s National Board of Directors. She resides in Hinesburg, Vermont.
Wednesday, January 9th, 2013
“Indy,” a 2-year-old English cocker spaniel owned by the Reeves family from White Bear Lake, Minnesota worked hard on a public land pheasant hunting trip in South Dakota this past November. “Indy and my husband brought in a nice rooster,” said Carol Reeves, “Along with our 10-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son, we had another great South Dakota weekend.”
Have your own bird dog photo you’d like to share? Email it to Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday, January 7th, 2013
Like most of you, bird hunting isn’t a hobby to me. It’s one of the biggest parts of my life. The days I spend afield influence how I view the world, current events, the future, and my own place amongst all of the above. For many folks across the pheasant range, the hunting season has ended or is nearing a snowy end in the coming days. As I reflect on my own 2012 season, three observations stick out as themes in my mind.
A Good Dog is Critical to Pheasant Hunting
After adding my second pup to the family this spring, I cannot stress enough the value of a good bird dog to pheasant hunting. I’ve blogged about ways a dogless pheasant hunter can achieve success in past posts, but increasingly I fall more toward a mentality of convincing pheasant hunters without dogs to take the plunge and get a bird dog for all the joys of pet ownership in addition to the incredible advantage a solid bird dog provides the pheasant hunter in the field.
Two isn’t Necessarily Better than One
While I may believe a bird dog is critical to pheasant hunting success, I don’t believe in “the more, the merrier” philosophy for bird dog ownership at this point. This was my first season as an owner of two bird dogs and I found it more challenging to keep track of two dogs hunting at the same time than I expected. I also found my two dogs to compete against each other in the field more than I’d hoped, which led to many more bumped birds than when I hunted the dogs independently. Consequently, I hunted the pups separately more often this season than I would have ever imagined. There are two clear advantages to multi-dog ownership I did observe a) the ability to keep both dogs fresh on multi-day hunts by rotating them throughout trips and b) older dogs teach young dogs an incredible amount – both good & bad – that helps accelerate the training process.
The Autumn Cattail Sloughs Disappeared from the Landscape
As vivid as if it were 10 minutes ago, I can close my eyes and spin a 360 degree circle recalling my November visit to South Dakota and North Dakota during this year’s Rooster Road Trip. A plume of smoke there, a plume of smoke there, a plume of smoke there, a gigantic plume of smoke over there and another plume of smoke over there. The summer drought of 2012 transitioned into the fall of fire as tens of thousands of acres of critical winter cover cattail sloughs were burn and prepped for spring crops. If the winter of 2013 becomes harsh, the pheasants that called those cattail sloughs their winter homes will freeze to death by the tens of thousands. If it’s a wet spring, crop insurance will come into play on those acres. Either way, the inevitable future declines in pheasant and duck numbers, increasing severity of coming spring floods and deteriorating quality of our water supply will all be traced back to cattail fires of the autumn of 2012.
Friday, January 4th, 2013
As I contemplate my recreational options for the first weekend in January, my pheasant hunting choices are rapidly disappearing. Pheasant hunting in my home state of Minnesota closed on New Year’s Day not to reopen till mid-October; ten long months away. So now what do I do with my weekends?
Although Kansas and Nebraska have provided excellent January destinations for me in the past, I don’t have the time available this year to make those trips from my Minnesota home.
Both South Dakota and North Dakota’s seasons extend through Sunday, while Iowa’s continues through the 10th of January, so this trio of states does indeed provide a more manageable option from Minnesota.
Local game farm hunt clubs also provide a closer, yet pricier, alternative to run my pair of shorthairs and shoulder the scattergun. While the hunting isn’t near as challenging as a wild bird adventure, my dogs delight in January and February days filled with a nose full of pheasant at the local hunt club.
The reality of my situation is one we all confront this time of year, the winding down of pheasant season and the ten month wait for another opening day.
What do you do when your state’s pheasant hunting closes for the year? Do you travel to a different state, hit the game farm, find a friend with a beagle to chase rabbits or drill a hole in the ice and go fishing?
Thursday, December 27th, 2012
In his fourth year of hunting, my German shorthaired pointer, “Rimfire,” learned how to pinch woodcock. Locked on point, his eyes would flicker back at me as I pushed my way through Vermont’s dense alders and buckthorn. Rim would wait until I got close, then back stealthily away, zoom a quarter circle to the left or right and point again, facing me. The woodcock would have no choice but to flush close rather than running or flying ahead through the thick trees. Rimfire has developed this into an art, and it usually works. (Note: It helps that well-behaved woodcock hold tight for pointing dogs.)
Hunting in South Dakota, Rimfire applies his skills to running pheasants. On point deep in the inner evergreens of a shelterbelt, he’ll wait for me, head turned slightly to hear my approach. Then he’ll dart out of the strip, race along its edge a ways and jump back in, through the outer shrubs, snapping on point facing me with the pheasant caught between us.
Our tag team strategy works in corn or sorghum plots, too. Unless, of course, it’s one of those days when Rimfire gets an overload of pheasant up his nose and becomes completely unglued. That happens at least once a year, and I’ve learned to be philosophical about the sight of eight or ten roosters rocketing skyward 75 yards in front of me. I watch the cornstalks twitching towards the horizon – the only way I know where my dog is – and remind myself that we’re all entitled to a little craziness now and then.
Rimfire’s bird pinching trick doesn’t work every time, but when it does, it continues to astound me. It’s something I couldn’t teach him, something he had to figure out on his own. And that makes me wonder what else he does that wasn’t part of his “formal” training. It’s clear that during the many hours he’s spent hunting, his nose, his movements, the birds, the wind, the grass and the trees all wrote chapters in his training manual.
I’ve seen him track a ruffed grouse in the wrong direction — towards where it landed – then stop, give me a look that says, “gee, am I dumb!” (the dog equivalent of smacking yourself on the forehead with your palm), then race back to where he started and track the bird in the direction it actually ran. I’ve also seen him search for a downed bird in a pattern I’d have no way of teaching him – loops in and out of a central point, circling that point like petals on a daisy.
What else have our dogs figured out on their own? Simply from the experience of hunting and understanding that our mission together is to produce game, I’ve no doubt my dogs work the cover in ways I don’t notice or can’t understand myself. That’s part of the magic that keeps us together.
Nancy Anisfield, an outdoor photographer/writer, sporting dog enthusiast and bird hunter, serves on Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s National Board of Directors. She resides in Hinesburg, Vermont.
Monday, December 3rd, 2012
The calendar has turned to December, and that means just five weekends left in South Dakota’s pheasant hunting season. Overall hunting success appears to be spotty due to the effects of the ongoing drought. Many public and private areas of grass were hayed to help livestock producers in this tough year, and the quality of other grass stands is lacking. More alarming, as detailed in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, is the looming crisis in pheasant country, as the dry conditions have allowed the appetite for corn to reach new levels, resulting in the burning and dismantling of an unquantifiable number of wetlands, cattails draws, fence lines, shelterbelts and groves.
Here with on-the-ground hunting and habitat reports are Pheasants Forever staff members in South Dakota:
My family was able to spend the Thanksgiving Holiday with my In-Law’s, who farm in north-central S.D. I can think of no better way to spend “Black Friday” than to grab a dog and shotgun and go pheasant hunting! Joining me was my son, Zach, and my brother-in-law, Jeff, from Mitchell. Habitat conditions were quite a bit different than past years’ hunts, due to the drying up of wetlands, and with that, the desire to farm these areas. However, we found the remaining habitat like shelterbelts, fence lines, and even harvested crop stubble (wheat) to be productive. From other reports I’m hearing, there seems to be a solid number of hens in all areas of the state, which is very encouraging. So even in areas where bird numbers have not been as strong as last year, the potential for a solid rebound next spring is there. Hopefully, those hens will be able to find a quality place to nest. CRP anyone? Come on Washington, let’s have a Farm Bill!
- Jim Ristau, Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist – Chamberlain, S.D.
I’ve heard mixed reports, but the overall consensus has been fairly tough hunting. In my experience, in the field where there is habitat, the birds will be found. Much of my successes have been in cattails – long days for a bird or two. And with the weather being as fair, birds have been wild and not holding for a young pointer.
- Mike Stephenson, Pheasants Forever South Dakota Regional Representative – Emery, S.D.
Pheasant hunting has been a little slow in much of the state, the birds are bunched up and pretty wild. If you are in for a challenge, this is the year. You need to hunt quiet and fast, especially on public ground. I would head for the “off the beaten path” spots along the Missouri and out west for the best results. This is a different style of a hunt, as you’re not walking food plots and tall grass; rather you are going to be targeting woody draws and more linear cover. On a more positive side, the reports on the grouse hunting have been excellent this year!
- Matt Morlock, Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist II – Volga, S.D
Hunting in northeast South Dakota has been pretty hit and miss. Some of our best success has come out of hunting new Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) walk-in areas with quality grass right before sundown. We’ve been seeing good numbers of birds, but due to milder weather and no snow, they are busting out early and are tough to keep in gunning range. Although it’s been difficult hunting, I think we should consider ourselves fortunate this year. The rate of grass conversion and the amount of cattail sloughs being burned is jaw dropping. It will be difficult to say what the bird numbers will look like next year with the significant loss of habitat taking place this fall.
- Ben Lardy, Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Biologist – Webster, S.D.
In Sanborn and Jerauld Counties, most guys have been shooting a bird or two per day. I talked to a group of guys that was hunting last weekend on public and private ground south of Mitchell, and they saw plenty of birds.
- Scott Groepper, Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist – Woonsocket, S.D.
Have you been pheasant hunting in South Dakota this year? If so, post your own report in the comments section below.
Wednesday, November 7th, 2012
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.
Wednesday, November 7th, 2012
Three days into a 5-day day hunting trip, I don’t think too many people would complain about South Dakota’s 10 a.m. start time for pheasants. It’s nice to catch a few extra zzz’s, grab a hearty breakfast and not feel a rush to stake out a hunting spot.
The story goes that South Dakota’s 10 a.m. start (save for the first days of the season when it starts at noon) was instituted so farmers could have time to get the chores done before hunters came knocking at their door. It’s become tradition, but it’s also economic – with 100,000 nonresident hunters coming in, the state likes giving them a chance to spend money in the morning.
Legal shooting times for pheasants vary by state. In Nebraska, North Dakota and Kansas, you can go after ringnecks a half hour before sunset. In Iowa, shootin’ can commence at 8 a.m. And in Minnesota, hunters have to wait until 9 a.m. to hit the fields.
Each state surely has legitimate reasons for their respective shooting times; in my native Minnesota, the most repeated reason I’ve heard for its start time is so birds are more dispersed when hunting begins as to level the playing field.
Personally, I like different times in different states – it adds to the unique experience in each one. But if you had to choose just one, what would be the ideal time start time to chase roosters in the morning?