First time to SD - lots of questions...

Fxtphoto

New member
Hi all, each year I take a road trip with my English Setter. This year we decided that we should head out to South Dakota between November 7 and the 15th.

My original plan was to find lodging in or around Pierre and hunt the grasslands to the south for Grouse and hunt to the east for pheasants.

Couldn't find an ideal place to stay and ended up finding a place in Leola further to the north east (near Aberdeen). My understanding is that this area is fantastic for pheasants, but how's the Grouse hunting in this area? The density map makes it look questionable.

Random questions:
1. What's the difference (if any) between a Prairie chicken, Prairie Grouse and a Greater Prairie Grouse/chicken. All the research I have done seems to use the names interchangeability. Where does the Sharp tail fit in?
2. Where does one park for the various locations to hunt? For example, WIA's? Waterfowl production areas? Is it like Maine, where I just find a spot to pull off the road or are there designated spots to park? If so, how do you locate them, as I don't see anything on the interactive SD hunting atlas.
3. Any recommendations on speciffic locations near Leola to chase Greater Prairie Grouse/chicken? Pheasants? It looks like there are a lot of accesable areas, just trying to hone in on some of the better habatat for them.
4. Seeing how we hunting Maine, we don't have to contend with venomous snakes. It seems like SD has a good number of rattlesnakes. Do I need to be concerned? After all we will be there in early November, so I wouldn'tthink so.
5. Besides the usual and basics, what are some must have items?

I'm sure I will have more questions, but that's all for now.

Frank
 

cheesy

Well-known member
I've hunted SD one time, last year, the same week you are talking about, so thats my total frame of reference. We hunted 30 miles south of where you will be staying.

1. What's the difference (if any) between a Prairie chicken, Prairie Grouse and a Greater Prairie Grouse/chicken. All the research I have done seems to use the names interchangeability. Where does the Sharp tail fit in? We saw zero game birds beyond pheasants. Prairie Chicken and Sharptail grouse are definitely different. I've shot and seen prairie chickens shot, they have a squared off tail and fly different than a hen pheasant. I've never seen a sharptail so won't make a fool of myself talking about them.


2. Where does one park for the various locations to hunt? For example, WIA's? Waterfowl production areas? Is it like Maine, where I just find a spot to pull off the road or are there designated spots to park? If so, how do you locate them, as I don't see anything on the interactive SD hunting atlas. We hunted a lot of public areas, not sure what SD calls it, but ground leased from private owners. We just pulled off into the ditch so as to not be a hindrance to ag equipment while not tearing anything up in the ditch.


3. Any recommendations on speciffic locations near Leola to chase Greater Prairie Grouse/chicken? Pheasants? It looks like there are a lot of accesable areas, just trying to hone in on some of the better habatat for them. We only saw pheasants, but our group was only hunting pheasants. Maybe there were chickens/grouse in the grasslands that we never touched?


4. Seeing how we hunting Maine, we don't have to contend with venomous snakes. It seems like SD has a good number of rattlesnakes. Do I need to be concerned? After all we will be there in early November, so I wouldn'tthink so. We never saw any snakes, it was t-shirt weather in the middle of the afternoon. Not saying there were none, but the 8 dogs we had on the ground never got into any.
 

BrownDogsCan2

Well-known member
I too have only hunted sd once, last week in oct. last year. I spent most of my time in the Aberdeen redfield area but hunted one day north of roscoe, that area looked prairie grouse friendly to me. I saw a flock of what I thought were sharp tails , flew more erratic than any chicken I’ve ever seen , almost like a flock of teal or pigeons. And a single chicken? setting on a bale on another field.
 

jackrabbit

Active member
Random questions:
1. What's the difference (if any) between a Prairie chicken, Prairie Grouse and a Greater Prairie Grouse/chicken. All the research I have done seems to use the names interchangeability. Where does the Sharp tail fit in?
Sharp tailed grouse and prairie chicken are different. Not sure if Prairie Chicken/Prairie Grouse/Greater Prairie Chicken are all names used interchangeably to name a Prairie Chicken?

2. Where does one park for the various locations to hunt? For example, WIA's? Waterfowl production areas? Is it like Maine, where I just find a spot to pull off the road or are there designated spots to park? If so, how do you locate them, as I don't see anything on the interactive SD hunting atlas.
Where ever you deem appropriate. Most of them will have a designated parking lot, but you don't need to use that - If it's a mile by mile section, the parking might be in the opposite corner of where you intend to hunt. Simply be smart and curteous and pull off the side of the road to wherever you are out of the way of any other traffic that may come by. And you are in rural SD, you might not see another vehicle all day depending on where you are.

3. Any recommendations on speciffic locations near Leola to chase Greater Prairie Grouse/chicken? Pheasants? It looks like there are a lot of accesable areas, just trying to hone in on some of the better habatat for them.
No advice... not overly familiar with the area. I've done a lot of research into hunting chickens in the Fort Pierre Grasslands, but have never actually done it yet. Pheasants - within a general .5 - 2 mile area I look for a food source - picked corn, sunflowers, etc., water, cattails, tree line, quality grassland and cover to hunt in. If you can find that, then there are probably pheasants. If it's an 80 acre grassland with only cattle grazing around, no food source, no other cover, etc., - then I'll often keep driving.

4. Seeing how we hunting Maine, we don't have to contend with venomous snakes. It seems like SD has a good number of rattlesnakes. Do I need to be concerned? After all we will be there in early November, so I wouldn'tthink so.
East river - no (you could always be that 1 in a billion chance though).
West River - depends where you are and the weather. Probably not a problem, but if you have a 70 degree sunny day in the Fort Pierre Grasslands, rattle snakes will be out. Use some common sense, avoid prairie dog towns, etc.


5. Besides the usual and basics, what are some must have items?
Weather - you could have everything from 75 degrees to 0 degrees and a blizzard that time of the year. Be prepared for yourself, your dog, your vehicle, etc.
 

Dakotazeb

Well-known member
Random questions:
1. What's the difference (if any) between a Prairie chicken, Prairie Grouse and a Greater Prairie Grouse/chicken. All the research I have done seems to use the names interchangeability. Where does the Sharp tail fit in?
They are all the same. The Sharptail is a totally different, yet similar, bird. You may find a few Sharpies in the Leola area but I doubt any Prairie Chickens. But even Sharpies a few and far between. You may bump some while pheasant hunting.
2. Where does one park for the various locations to hunt? For example, WIA's? Waterfowl production areas? Is it like Maine, where I just find a spot to pull off the road or are there designated spots to park? If so, how do you locate them, as I don't see anything on the interactive SD hunting atlas.
Most all GPA's, WIA's and WPA's have designated parking areas. If none are present just pull off to the side of the road.
3. Any recommendations on speciffic locations near Leola to chase Greater Prairie Grouse/chicken? Pheasants? It looks like there are a lot of accesable areas, just trying to hone in on some of the better habatat for them.
I lived in Aberdeen for over 30 years but have been gone from the area for 10 years. While there is an okay pheasant population in the area I would not call it fantastic for pheasants. Much better further south and southwest. A lot of pasture land in the Leola area, especially to the north. For pheasants there a lot better areas than around Leola.
4. Seeing how we hunting Maine, we don't have to contend with venomous snakes. It seems like SD has a good number of rattlesnakes. Do I need to be concerned? After all we will be there in early November, so I wouldn'tthink so.
Unless you are out around the Missouri River you will not have to worry about snakes.
5. Besides the usual and basics, what are some must have items?
Come prepared for all kinds of weather. It could be fairly warm or you could be hunting in a foot of snow.
I'm sure I will have more questions, but that's all for now.

Frank
 

Munster927

Active member
1. What's the difference (if any) between a Prairie chicken, Prairie Grouse and a Greater Prairie Grouse/chicken. All the research I have done seems to use the names interchangeability. Where does the Sharp tail fit in?

As others have said, prairie chickens and sharpies are different. Greater Prairie Chicken is one of the subspecies of Prairie Chicken. There's also a Lesser Prairie Chicken down south. Texas/Oklahoma way. Prairie Chickens are similar looking in flight but quite a bit different up close. I use "Prairie Grouse" for both birds to explain broadly. I've only seen a sharpie and prairie chicken in the same place as a pheasant one time (which was in MN).

2. Where does one park for the various locations to hunt? For example, WIA's? Waterfowl production areas? Is it like Maine, where I just find a spot to pull off the road or are there designated spots to park? If so, how do you locate them, as I don't see anything on the interactive SD hunting atlas.

As others mentioned, there usually is a pull off somewhere. It won't be on your map but driving around the management area, you'll find it. But nothing wrong with parking on the road as long as you're out of the way. You'll be up in the Aberdeen area (if you do head that way) before the Sand Lake Refuge hunt is open (which is usually around December 15th, but double check the dates if you want the exact ones). Supposedly you have to park at designated parking spots there and not on the road. I've never been to Sand Lake Refuge but have researched the area a bit just recently.

3. Any recommendations on speciffic locations near Leola to chase Greater Prairie Grouse/chicken? Pheasants? It looks like there are a lot of accesable areas, just trying to hone in on some of the better habatat for them.

No recommendations here as I've never been up that way. But I've generally heard that West River is where you want to be for prairie birds. Not to say you might not encounter a group or 2.

4. Seeing how we hunting Maine, we don't have to contend with venomous snakes. It seems like SD has a good number of rattlesnakes. Do I need to be concerned? After all we will be there in early November, so I wouldn'tthink so.

I've never seen a rattlesnake in the times I've been to SD. I've heard they are more common West River as well, in the more cattle range. But YMMV I'm sure.

5. Besides the usual and basics, what are some must have items?

Assuming you've read the regulations, but Steel shells. All you can use in SD on public land. Watch the weather to plan what you need for gear, but as others mentioned, anything from t shirts to snow boots that time of the year. It's a total crap shoot. Have some good gloves with you in the field or a multi tool for pulling sand burrs out of your dogs feet.
 

OKhunter88

New member
5. Besides the usual and basics, what are some must have items?

Assuming you've read the regulations, but Steel shells. All you can use in SD on public land. Watch the weather to plan what you need for gear, but as others mentioned, anything from t shirts to snow boots that time of the year. It's a total crap shoot. Have some good gloves with you in the field or a multi tool for pulling sand burrs out of your dogs feet.
There are some public areas that don't require steel.

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benelli-banger

Well-known member
I found some other classifications of public land last year that didn’t require non toxic, as it ultimately fell under the definition of walk in...the CO I called was being real coy, but he finally acknowledged it wasn’t required.
 
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Munster927

Active member
Oh you guys are right. I always use non toxic in SD. I hunt mostly GPAs and WPAs while I'm there so Id rather not slip up and have to change shells back and forth. Guess in my head I made up that non toxic is required haha

I'd recommend you bring lots of Non Toxic though, you'll likely hunt alot of GPAs. They seem to be some of the best habitat.
 

Bob Peters

Active member
I lived in Aberdeen for over 30 years but have been gone from the area for 10 years. While there is an okay pheasant population in the area I would not call it fantastic for pheasants. Much better further south and southwest. A lot of pasture land in the Leola area, especially to the north. For pheasants there a lot better areas than around Leola.
Here's what I think when I see a quote like this, and please don't take it the wrong way Zeb because I appreciate your perspective.

"Aberdeen is so-so for bird numbers. Anything north and west of there is marginal hunting. Anything east of there isn't very good. Watertown doesn't have any birds left, I've read that on this site many times. So I'm going to hunt between Mitchell, Miller, and Chamberlain. With the possibility of land off the strip of I-90 between Kennebec and Murdo. The rest of the state is luke warm for pheasant hunting. The way I figure, about 10% of the state is great pheasant hunting 😙
 

nastymcnarf

New member
Not much of a chicken chaser...but have a friend who hunts the grasslands around Ft. Pierre every year and does great. If you're primarily looking for roosters...I'd stay a lot further east. Born/raised in SD and have hunted most of it at some point. I normally start my hunting west of Salem and hunt north from there. I sometimes end up as far north as De Smit. You'll find lots of public in between and far fewer hunters than around Michell or Pierre. Be picky...bring good optics and use them.

I certainly understand the limitations of when a guy can take vacation time. But when I'm asked...I tell people (without access to private land) to hunt as late as practical but with as much snow and butt-puckering cold as possible. All the "fluffy", private cover is flat and the birds are in the cattails on the public. You can get sneaky at this point as well. Most of the cover in the soughs can only be approached one way with open water. Once the water stiffens up you can circle around to keep wind in your favor. Or to simply approach the thicker cover from a direction the birds aren't used to being approached by hunters. Being quite honest...I hunt very few opening days any more. I stay in my duck boat far out in the middle of a big, smelly marsh. When the opener rings out the first shot...It's on. I've had mallards bombing in on me all day long. They've been kicked out of small ponds and wetlands as the rooster chasers pound the surrounding cover. They don't want to be within a quarte mile of dry land...and that's where I am.
 

labrador

Member
The exact town naming on here is ridiculous. You are really pinning down areas to hammer. You pack all the internet scouters into that area you named above and it's too much for the resource to handle.

If you want to come hunt here do some damn reading and research old posts along with current posts about weather and crops. Send private messages to people you think will steer you right. I just think this bs of naming exact towns is very poor form. You town namers are going to be pulling up to your favorite spots to see trucks parked already or fresh tracks in the snow!
 

Munster927

Active member
Just saying, but a new member that joined yesterday really doesn't know who to PM to ask about anything. I've been a member for almost a year and don't know who to ask about anything state specific. Real poor form to blast someone for asking for help or for an opinion. If we all read old posts what the hell do we have to walk about? Weather and crop reports? This isn't weather channel and it ain't a farming forum.

If folks Wana put their small town spots on blast, let em. But Aberdeen, Mitchell, Pierre, Miller or Chamberlain ain't exactly SD secrets. Google "best places to pheasant hunt in SD" and they can find those 5 towns on every list. When people tell me names of towns on an open forum I take them for a grain of salt. I've mentioned hunting the Chamberlain area when in reality I hunt 50 miles from Chamberlain. If some random dude found himself in my spot 50 miles away of Chamberlain due to me mentioning a popular pheasant town, good on him.
 

Dakotazeb

Well-known member
Here's what I think when I see a quote like this, and please don't take it the wrong way Zeb because I appreciate your perspective.

"Aberdeen is so-so for bird numbers. Anything north and west of there is marginal hunting. Anything east of there isn't very good. Watertown doesn't have any birds left, I've read that on this site many times. So I'm going to hunt between Mitchell, Miller, and Chamberlain. With the possibility of land off the strip of I-90 between Kennebec and Murdo. The rest of the state is luke warm for pheasant hunting. The way I figure, about 10% of the state is great pheasant hunting 😙
No problem. Agree with you 100%. I've been in Watertown for 10 years and pheasant numbers have been way, way down. and you are right, east of Aberdeen is not very good although there are decent numbers in some areas around Groton but east of Groton is marginal at best. I tried to tell the OP that the pheasant hunting north and west of Aberdeen is not great. Certainly not fantastic like he was led to believe. But further west out around Eureka can be better. I would concentrate on areas south of Hwy. 12 and west of Hwy 37.
 

nastymcnarf

New member
The exact town naming on here is ridiculous. You are really pinning down areas to hammer. You pack all the internet scouters into that area you named above and it's too much for the resource to handle.

If you want to come hunt here do some damn reading and research old posts along with current posts about weather and crops. Send private messages to people you think will steer you right. I just think this bs of naming exact towns is very poor form. You town namers are going to be pulling up to your favorite spots to see trucks parked already or fresh tracks in the snow!
 

nastymcnarf

New member
The exact town naming on here is ridiculous. You are really pinning down areas to hammer. You pack all the internet scouters into that area you named above and it's too much for the resource to handle.

If you want to come hunt here do some damn reading and research old posts along with current posts about weather and crops. Send private messages to people you think will steer you right. I just think this bs of naming exact towns is very poor form. You town namers are going to be pulling up to your favorite spots to see trucks parked already or fresh tracks in the snow!
Lighten up, Francis
 

Bob Peters

Active member
My thinking, if you're in the "golden triangle" whatever the hell that is, it means you're in a good area for hunting, but everyone knows it. Public land is pounded extra hard, private ground is big bucks to hunt, and has a better chance of being peppered with hatchery birds, just for a landowner/outfitter to make money on an unsuspecting out of town nimrod. If you are "freelancing" the number one skill is being able to assess hunting ground on its ability to produce and hold birds. I've known people in the last 3 years that went to miller and winner, and had poor hunts. From what I've heard these are supposed to be "prime" areas. The most important thing is finding good ground, good habitat. You could go to the very best county in SD and hunt a field of picked corn with no weeds and no water and never see a single bird. You could go to the western edge of the state and hunt land by the black hills, but find a cattail slough surrounded by weeds and corn stubble and flush 50 birds.
 
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