Well, we just made it back from five amazing days in South Dakota. This was my second annual trip. I was fortunate enough to get invited back this year after a very successful hunt last year. I go with a couple friends from work, Chris and Dan. Dan is from SD and we stay with his brother while we are in town. Last year while walking for pheasants, we noticed the unreal number of ducks in the area. We decided that we had to put in the drawing to hunt waterfowl this year. Luckily we got drawn and went up a few days early to see what waterfowl had to offer.
Thursday was the first morning up there and we could hardly wait to burn some powder. We hunted a large private marsh that was just West of Huron. It was completely surrounded by corn and we actually hunted from the corn. Before we went up I was told that there were lots of Canada geese around, so I brought two bags of full bodies along just in case. I told the guys that I would make it worth lugging those decoys all the way from Kansas if there were Canadas in the area. I told them I would get them in if they were around. Just before shooting time, we were getting buzzed like crazy. We also had ducks in the spread. Needless to say, we were busy for the next few hours. Mallards, pintail, gadwall, and teal all were fooled. Around 10AM, I heard one of my favorite sounds – the honk of the Canuck. Like music to my ears, I could barely hear them. I gave them everything I had, and they swung around twice and came right in. When the smoke cleared, I was a little disappointed on our shooting since we only had three down, but it was better than nothing. We now had a reason to stay since the Canucks had started flying. About a half hour later we heard another group calling and lick clock work they followed in the steps of their fallen brethren. Again, not the best shooting since we only dropped two. I think these guys were hooked on shooting the B-52s as they come in low. I know I am hooked for life.
We ended up heading back out with another group that afternoon to a different water hole. On the way, we could not help but notice how much water there was. Every square mile had a very good sized body of water. I can see why the call it the Prairie Pothole region, but the potholes had turned into lakes. There were ducks on every one of them too. At our afternoon spot we bumped a pile of ducks off of it and pass shot them as they came back in. What a day we had. Day 1 total: 39 ducks, 5 geese. 8 mallards, 12 pintails, 6 widgeon, and the rest gadwall and teal.
Day two we went back to the same spot we started Day one. At first light, we killed every bird that came in the decoys. Seven ducks dead. I warned the guys that we shot the ducks off the hole. We still saw lots of birds flying in the distance in all directions, but not on our hole. That afternoon we went back to the same place we had been the afternoon prior. We saw lots of ducks, and they were even landing on our hole, but way out in the middle far from shooting range. I have a feeling these ducks had been shot at before numerous times. They knew the drill. We downsized our spread to 6 decoys and moved to a different location on the marsh. It worked, but we were short on time. We finished the day with 13 birds. A mixed bag of gadwall, teal, widgeon, and mallards. Not bad, but not great. My only disappointment was that we had two groups of very workable Canadas fly over, but did not have any decoys out. I’m sure we would have gotten them. It was still better than any day in the office.
Day three was opening day of pheasant season, but the rules say you can’t hunt until noon. Thus, we hunted ducks again, but only shot one drake mallard. My hypothesis was beginning to have some backing. We had shot the ducks off of both of our marshes. They needed a rest, but we did not have time to let them rest. There was so much water around and no pressure anywhere. The birds were free to go wherever they wanted. I was amazed at how we did not see another duck hunter the entire time we were there. Not even in town when we were there. Our luck changed when we went pheasant hunting that afternoon. We mainly walked standing corn, which is tough to do. It is almost impossible and not fair to use dogs since they see the birds running in front of them and chase them. It is difficult to shoot since the range of motion is limited to corn stalk height. We also saw lots of birds running in front of us, but never got them up. They were very good at running around us. We reserved the last 45 minutes of the day to go road hunting, which was the highlight of the trip last year since we had such success. Unfortunately, we did not shoot one rooster road hunting on the first day of pheasant season. We had 17 hunters the first day and only shot 29 roosters. A few of us still had a great day of shooting since we were in the right place at the right time.
Day four we spend the morning relaxing and licking our wounds since we had been burning the candle at both ends for three days. We had picked up a jug of Wild Turkey, a bottle of peppermint Schnapps, and a case of long neck bottles. Everyday after the hunt we got into the Wild Turkey and I have to claim the code of the road since just about everything came out during “Turkey Talk”. The afternoon of day four was a great day of pheasant hunting. We had 17 guys again and we picked some different corn fields to walk. They must have been the right fields, because we saw a lot more birds. The very first field was unreal. When we got to the very end all of the guys had closed in with about 50 yards left in the field. Birds started coming out everywhere for about 20 minutes. It seemed like it would never stop. Birds were down everywhere. It was a blast. With 45 minutes left in the day, we decided to go road hunting again. It was on. We were able to finish our limit in about 20 minutes. On the way back to the cabin, we saw numerous other roosters that would have been easy pickins. When it rains, it pours. We ended the day with 49 roosters and a good number of them were shot by our three man crew.
Day five we woke up extra early and headed down to Parkston, SD, which is in Southeast SD. It was the highlight of the trip. Dan grew up in the area and still has the family farm. He also knows lots of farmers, so there is a lot of opportunity for good land. We shot our limit in an hour and half and called it a day. We were a little disappointed because it happened so fast. We walked one main grass patch that was near a bean field that was being harvested. The birds must have just ran in, because my lab Kenzie was all over them. I have never formally trained her for pheasants. She was mainly trained as a waterdog. She took it to the next level on day five. When I told her to “find those birds”, her head went down and she found them. We walked into the wind to help her get the scent. She flushed almost every bird. The grass we were walking was a marsh that had dried up and the reeds were 6-8 foot tall and very thick. There were numerous birds that we knocked down in the grass that we would have never found if it wasn’t for her. I think the guys were amazed at how well she did and I was so proud. Her feet were bleeding and had burrs and thorns stuck in them. She had numerous cuts on her face and just below her eye where she was bleeding since she ran into a barbed wire fence. She was such a trooper. Every time we went back to the vehicle she would curl up and fall aslpeep, but when we stopped she was the first one out ready to hunt again.
Overall, it was an amzing trip. I was so depressed the next day at work. We had such an emotional high for five days and then back the office. I already can’t wait until next year. But, we have so many ducks and Canucks to get in between…