South Dakota Hunt, Part I

Since my last post I’ve had a very active schedule.  I hope I don’t lose you in the first few paragraphs so please bear with me, as I jump around a little…..

Over the weekend of the 20th I accomplished a variety of outdoor activities.  Saturday morning my brother Ron I set up on Lake Elizabeth and shot a couple wood ducks.  I did harvest a mature drake that is destined to hang in my office.  Really nice bird.

Saturday night my wife Lisa and I were joined by Noel and his girlfriend Christine for some shore fishing for walleyes.  Although the wind was a little brisk, we caught a number of fish and kept 6 that we added to some already frozen fillets that we had for Sunday evenings dinner.  Excellent as usual thanks to Lisa’ s culinary skills!

Sunday morning we had 5 hunters (Ron, Mik (nephew), Freddie (nephew), Noel and I) in a cornfield anticipating a good wood duck shoot but after a couple hours it was time to do something else, like inspect deer stands and make adjustments if necessary.  No missed birds however….

Noel and I proceeded to relocate two permanent stands that for some odd reason turned into portable stands…Hmm?  Not recommended!  Long story; we are either dedicated or need psychiatric help….?  6 hours later we had cleared shooting lanes, cleared out windfalls and moved 2 stands into very encouraging locations.

Wednesday October 24th, Noel Nemitz, Gary Wells and I were up early on our way to South Dakota for our annual pheasant hunt and pre-season deer scouting.  I have been hunting South Dakota for 11 years for ducks, pheasants and deer.  In the past even in north eastern South Dakota which is historically not the best pheasant hunting area, we have shared in some memorable hunts.  Last year was a struggle but hopefully this trip is better.

Once we arrived and bought our license we proceeded to our hotel and dropped off our extra gear and bags and patiently waited until noon…Not sure if the later opening time really has an effect on the birds but I guess it allows all the non-residents time to partake in other activities.   In the past we have duck hunted in the morning but on this trip we decided not to hunt waterfowl which based on the ducks and geese we seen, was a mistake….

First stop on our pheasant hunting trip was a small cattail draw that has always been good.  Not even 5 minutes into the hunt Duke was birdie and a rooster flushed between Noel and I and we had our first pheasant in the cooler.  Unfortunately we walked another half mile and flushed some hens and no more roosters.

As we traveled the area we hunt, we hunted smaller sloughs and draws that were bordered by picked corn fields.  Remember one thing when pheasant hunting; “CORN IS KING.”  Yes I have shot pheasants next to wheat fields and soybean fields but you can never go wrong with areas bordered by picked corn!!

The next two spots we worked some hillsides adjacent to picked corn fields and flushed a few hens but no roosters.  As we finished the second area a car drove up and informed us that down a mile on the left they seen a flock of pheasants fly into a cattail slough, next to a picked corn field….imagine that!!  Obviously we heeded their advice, determined it was a place we could hunt, and “cowboyed up”.

Noel providing Duke some water after a tough hunt….

After determing Gary’s area to block, Noel and I walked into the wind (northwest) and started to work a drive from southeast to northwest ending back at the road we started on.  Halfway through, Duke jumped deep into the cattails and a rooster busted out to my left, directly over Noel; dead bird was the next command to Duke.  After retreiving the rooster I circled around to Gary with Noel pivoting in the middle and another rooster busted out and as shots rang out, another rooster down.  Good job Duke!!

Across the road to the south was an area about 240 acres that had numerous cattail sloughs and creek bottoms that we quickly planned our route and started hunting.   Gary drove Noel and I about 3/4 of mile south and we started zig zagging to Gary, with Duke leading the way.  Shortly after starting we flushed some hens and a nice whitetail buck but no roosters.  Noel and I turned and headed straight north through a willow thicket embedded in a cattail slough; suddenly Duke went ballistic, jumping, hopping and exceptionally birdie…Shortly a rooster flushed to my right on the other side of the willows; Noel shouldered his Benelli, one shot, rooster down.  After we completed walking through the thicket, Duke continued working back and forth and darn near ran me over.  As I stopped to let Duke work past me, a rooster flushed directly in front of me; one shot, rooster down.  Immediatley to my right another rooster; this one took three shots, but rooster down.  At the end of this drive, Noel shot a bird that for some reason we could not find.  We even went back later and spent over 10 minutes searching for this bird.  Sure do hate losing roosters.

Duke and Tim with a daily limit of South Dakota roosters.

With an hour and a half remaining on day one, we decided to drive back into town and hunt a cattail draw we hunted late last year with incredible luck.  Earlier today, we noticed a bunch of pheasants in the fields above a draw feeding.  We positioned ourselves into the wind and started working north along the railroad tracks that bordered the cattails on the west side.  It wasn’t 3 minutes when Duke stopped, and looked down and suddenly a rooster flushed to my right; one shot rooster down.  One step further another rooster flushed and again as the shot rang out, the rooster dropped.  It’s funny how you can walk for miles and not fire a shot and then walk 50 feet and shoot two roosters; the pheasant gods were talking!

As we ended the first drive a number of birds flew into the draw from the fields above so we chose to hunt the area they landed in.  As we pushed through the previoulsy bailed area, hens busted out on all ends and Duke to say the least was a little excited.  As the last hen fluhsed, Duke darted straight right to a cattail patch next to a lateral fence line running east and west.  Duke actually gained a few yards on me so I called him back and then commanded him to “get’em”.  Immediately after, the rooster flushed and my first shot was a little behind but the next one found its mark and the rooster tumbled down.

We ended up next to the railroad tracks and proceeded to reminisce about the hunt when Duke with his nose down and tail wagging worked parrellel with the tracks and with Noel to my left and Gary ahead of me, two roosters busted out with a good 45 yard start.  Having Gary in front of me I could not shoot and Gary thinking it was too far did not shoot either but Noel decided to rattle off two shots as one of the roosters glided down.  As the bird collected its thoughts with it’s legs moving and racing into the weeds, their was one problem, Duke was shortly behind.  A few seconds later, Duke was gleaming with a live rooster in his mouth; exceptional retreive Duke.

Tim, Duke and Gary Wells with a daily limit of roosters. (Noel taking picture)

I will continue my South Dakota recap on my blog after the deer opener this weekend.  As we prepare for Saturday morning it appears the weather shouldn’t be a deterrent.  Maybe some rain on Saturday but that just helps quite things down and control our scent.  Good luck deer hunting and remember to practice safety and introduce someone new to this great sport of hunting!