South Dakota Hunt, Part II

On November 14th my South Dakota hunt continued with turkey hunting and deer hunting.  After some corporate human resources training in Fargo on the 13th and 14th, I arrived at the hotel on Wednesday night.  I met Noel Nemitz and Dan Rathman at about 7:30 PM.  Having all grown up in Olivia MN in the seventies and graduating in 1980, it was surreal that over 30 years later, we were together again in a hotel room in North Eastern South Dakota….

Thursday morning we started our hunt scouting with binoculars and spotting scopes to see what the “mother nature” had to offer.   As the early morning light rolled across the countryside to slowly illuminate the wildlife in it’s most prolific and peaceful setting, it was quickly apparent why we were here.  With the deer meandering through the rolling prairie, the roosters cackling to say good morning and the turkeys squeaking and gobbling to gather the flock, it was therapeutic and exciting.

View of the landscape.

After we observed the daylights first couple hours and enjoyed a thermos of coffee, it was time to place ground-blinds and hang deer stands to prepare for the deer opener on Saturday, November 17th.  As we continued to complete the days work, we spotted a variety of deer that really increased our curiosity.

Ground blind placement with my son Tyler on a cold Friday morning.

Thursday ended with a trio of 51 year olds very tired and thinking how nice it would be to have younger helpers….ironically my son Tyler Bailey would arrive later in the evening from Dickinson, North Dakota, after most of the work was completed.

Friday morning started the same as Thursday with some very positive scouting results.  As the day progressed we observed a good population of turkeys in an area we have shot some nice deer over the past few years so we added this to our “to do” list.  As Friday’s sun began to set, we were again scouting for deer and to our pleasure, we identified a number of quality deer.  When we arrived back at the hotel, we were met by my son-in-law Neal Strege from St. Michael, all anxious and ready to roll.  As we discussed the past two days accomplishments; deer stands, ground blinds and deer and turkey spotted it was time for supper so we went into town for some food and beverages.

Saturday morning came early; 4:30 AM to be exact!  After we all loaded our trucks and double checked we had all our gear loaded.  Funny how everyone had their truck; Ford, 2 Chevy’s , GMC and a Nissan, nice little convoy going down the road!  Just prior to leaving,  Dan and I conversed since we were wavering which stand to choose.  I was planning on a tree stand and Dan a ground blind; well as fate would have it, we switched.  This was first sign of how my hunt would go!

As we all proceeded to our chosen stands, we  hunkered down for the long wait between o’dark thirty and legal shooting hours. As daylight slowly creeped over the eastern horizon, I turned to the west and noticed a deer headed straight for me and with a south east wind, it was almost perfect; except for a small 6 pointer, not a shooter.   The buck proceeded to walk within 25 yards and then came down wind, stopped, blew a couple times and then ran straight south and stopped 70 yards broadside, so I had a good time to evaluate to kill or not; onward he went to hopefully grow up.

About 7:30 AM, I heard a shot from Dan’s direction and noticed Dan repositioning to see if he had connected.  As Dan descended down his stand, it wasn’t long after I received a picture of Dan’s nice 8 pointer, from the stand I was originally planning to go to; the trend of things to come.

Dan’s 8 pointer

As I pondered my decision and enjoyed a cup of coffee and a snack, I received a text from my son Tyler indicating that Neal was ready to go turkey hunting since he harvested a 9 pointer at 7:45 AM.

Neal’s 9 pointer

After a hunter fills their tag, they are done deer hunting; there is no party hunting.  Since we had two bucks down, it was time to help everyone with their deer so around 9:45 AM I walked back to my truck to start the process.  After all was done, I was back in my stand by 11:00 AM and ready to spend the remainder of the day in my ground-blind.

During the remainder of the day I seen a few deer in a variety of directions but nothing was in range and worse yet, none were shooters.  As darkness descended on the landscape, the first day ended as it had started; dark, windy and cool with some light snow.

After we all arrived back at the hotel, we all grabbed a beverage and talked about all the days events.  This is always one of my favorite times; recount the day, learn from what happened and adjust and plan for the next day.  As in many instances, how you adjust to the variables you are given will determine how successful you are.  In a hunting scenario, the weather patterns, hunting pressure or lack there of and game availability are factors that must always be contemplated.

Sunday morning started with a shuffle of the cards that put Noel, Tyler and I into different stands and of course my choice was close but no cigar!  Noel and I went to the “pinch point”.  An area we have killed many deer and where Neal harvested his deer on Saturday morning.  As I approached my stand and started climbing my ladder stand, I was stunned by the brightness of the stars.  It was really cool how it seemed you could reach out and touch the stars since they appeared as in 3D.  About 6:30 AM I heard a crack of a branch and noticed some motion to my right but with legal shooting hours about 35 minutes away, all I could do is wait and hope it walks back my way since with the wind from the southeast, it was unable to detect my presence.  At 7:45 AM I was startled by a shot fired in Noel’s direction and shortly after a picture of his nice 8 pointer.

Noel’s nice 8 pointer.

Shortly after receiving the picture, I rec’d a text from Noel that he had called Neal to come over and help him.  Hopefully with the activity on the other side of the forty, some deer would be coming from the west and avoiding the noise and scent.  About an hour later I was joined at my stand by Tyler, Neal, Dan and Noel and no deer.  My impeccable luck was continuing…. After conversing and deciding what our next move would be we walked back to Noel’s deer and proceeded to drag the deer out to the trucks.  We were expecting another party member, Jeff Clausing from the TC Metro area at about 9:00 AM so the timing was almost perfect.  Noel had called Jeff “Gilligan” and determined he was on schedule.  After Tyler and Neal, “the youngest members” dragged the deer out we were joined by Gilligan and decided to have lunch.  Gilligan had brought a venison roast he had marinated at home and had cut into sandwich slices so it definitely hit the spot. The remainder of Sunday, Tyler, Gilligan and myself went back on stand.  Gilligan went to the stand Dan had shot his buck from and Tyler and I went to series of deep wooded ravines.  Gilligan did have a shot on Sunday evening but unfortunately missed but Tyler and I only seen a few does…..

Monday started with Gilligan returning to Dan’s tree stand and Tyler to the wooded ravine Neal and Noel shot their deer and I traveled to a spot we haven’t deer hunted in the past but seen some nice deer sigh while pheasant hunting in October.  As my luck would have it, I seen plenty for pheasants and no deer.  I did bump a deer walking in but with the cover of low light and dense cover I could not see it.  Without having a stand I was merely scouting with a rifle in my hand but I scouted pheasants, not deer.During the day we conducted a few small drives and kicked out a couple small bucks and does but chose not to pull the trigger.  The highlight of the day was that Dan and Neal killed 4 turkeys.  Neal had a chance to kill his first turkey; a triple bearded jake!!

Neal’s first Turkey.

Monday night came and it was time for Tyler to drive back to Dickinson, North Dakota and Noel had to drive back to the TC Metro area so we were down to Neal, Gilligan, Dan and myself.

Tuesday morning Gilligan and myself went out on stand but to no avail.  At about 9:00 AM we orchestrated two small drives but only kicked up a few does.  At about 11:00 AM it was time to load up and head back home.

As I reminisce about our hunt, I’m always surprised how plentiful the wildlife in South Dakota is.  The area we hunt is heavily farmed but with the creek bottoms, buffalo ridge hills and pot-holes the habitat is almost perfect.  As with every year, on my drive home I ponder the weeks memories and start to look forward to next year.  With everyone safely home and back at the “daily routine”, I will count the days until next year!!

For everyone that has this burning desire to hunt, it’s hard to explain to people that don’t.  Almost everyone is passionate about something and it really dictates their behavior and attitude.  As my wife continues to tolerate my passion for hunting I don’t thank her enough for her patience and tolerance during this crazy time of the year.  I will continue to try and close the deal on a nice buck with my muzzle loader in Minnesota and also use my cross-bow,.  Since my numerous surgeries and partial replacement of my left shoulder I have qualified for a permit so I purchased my cross-bow back in 2010.

Good luck hunting and remember to be safe and introduce someone new to this great sport of hunting.