Summer is almost over, and that means pheasant season is right around the corner. I’m already looking forward to the crisp cool air, watching Covey hunt, and hopefully hitting my limit. I know I’m not the only one excited to find a few roosters because I recently received a question regarding South Dakota pheasant hunting from Joe. His question got me thinking about all the wonderful pheasant hunts I’ve been on in the great state of South Dakota and beyond. Here is what Joe asked –
Q: Good morning Ron. I’m hoping/planning/dreaming of driving to South Dakota this Fall with my four English Pointers to Upland Bird Hunt. I’m stoked about having the chance of getting into a possible variety of Ring-necks, Partridges, Sharp-tails, Prairie Chickens & Bobwhite Quail. Can you give me any insight? I’m initially attracted to the Winner area. Sounds like there may be 2-3 others going with me & maybe be another pointer or two. I’d envision alternating dogs between 3-4 hour hunts (as if we’ll last that long). I’m hoping to find a cabin-type accommodation to rent for 4-5 nights, w/ a hot shower, kitchen, stove, restroom, heat & that would welcome outside dogs. We’re not needing the $550 a day per hunter outfitter…but public land DIY hunting would be great. If you have any suggestions, I’d really appreciate it …or if you’d like to go… that’d be even better! If you recommend a particular week or two on the calendar to go, that’d be great too! I can’t think of a single person I’d rather bounce this off of than you. You go ahead & bring me back down to reality…I can (hopefully) handle it.
A: Hey Joe!
You’re not too far from reality. I’ve hunted this way for decades. Public land can produce and there are thousands of areas. SDF&G Atlas shows the way. Suggest you contact city chambers of commerce or SD tourism for lists of cabins, motels, etc. Most welcome dogs and hunters, often providing cleaning stations, freezer space, etc. They depend on hunters for much annual income. Winner area is excellent for mix of Pheas, Sharptails, Prairie Chickens and a few Huns, but it’s too popular. Hunting pressure is intense. Lodges and preserves and guides everywhere. And perhaps not quite as much un-hunted public areas as in other parts of the state. Get on the F&G website and check relative bird densities in other areas compared to hunter densities. I usually hunt a relatively poor area that hasn’t as many pheasants as Winner/Chamberlain and similar hotspots, but also has many fewer hunters. Usually limit every time, but also have access to some private lands which can make a huge difference when public lands are pushed out. The birds concentrate where no one disturbs them. I’ve umped as many as 15 roosters at a time a few hundred yards on the private side of a fence surrounding a public area. Now, these birds will move daily to food, so it pays to assess escape cover related to forage. About 3 or 4 PM the birds will sneak to the forage field. Hunt the edges of grass/grain then. Even on heavily hunted public areas, this can work. Also try “surrounding” big fields. Birds will move away from hunters, so start 3 or 4 guys/parties from 4 directions toward the middle. Running birds bump into someone. Watch your shots! Hunt smart and you can limit the miles. They do add up quicker — or maybe they’re longer and uphill both ways these days! Last year Brad and I struggled for a three days, sometimes getting but one or two birds, but on the last day we’d figured them out and limited easily with the dogs pointing bird after bird after bird. It was a red letter day! Hope you have similar success. Do that research! Good luck.
World Class Pheasant Hunting — Ron Spomer Outdoors is written by Ron Spomer for www.ronspomeroutdoors.com