Late Season

randywatson

New member
Going to be good with this cold snap to get them sloughs frozen. We were in Pierre nad Chamberlain this past wknd and saw impressive numbers on public and private ground. With all the snow sloughs were cr@p for walking on. Lots of birds holding in the cattails and made walking very difficult with the snow that had accumulated in them. We brought snow shoes and had great success. 7 man limit friday and saturday on private ground. The HATCH was way better than what they had predicted. Get after em. Only a few weeks left.
 

sjohn

Member
We just got back Sunday from our annual trip. This was my 12th year in SD and was by far the best ever. We saw more birds this year than the previous 10 years. The most birds I have ever seen was back in 2006. We hunted the week after thankgiving in 2006 immediately following a severe blizzard. The birds were all bunched up then, just like this year. This years hunt also followed a small blizzard and also had the birds grouped up. It was very difficult hunting shelter belts and cattails because of all the drifted snow, but if you could find shelter belts and cattails that did not have much snow, you were on to something. We had our best year ever road hunting but this was kind of forced due to the high snow drifts and flooded habitat. About 50% of our normal habitat was either snowed in or flooded. Amazing the water! Our road hunt strategy centered around shallow cattails that boarded the roads and the ones that were not totally blown in with snow. If it looked good, most of the times there were birds there. If there was one bird, there were several. We also had one flush or should I say a continuous flush of several hundred birds. There was no way to count them. The sky went dark as the birds started to flush from the road. The flush continued through the field and lasted over 100 yards and about 30 yards wide. It continued over the hill about 100 yards away and just did not end. I had not seen a flush like this since 2006! It was jaw dropping. I would have to say it was easily over 500 birds. There are no words to really describe what we saw.

We got in late on sunday due to the ice covered roads. It took us almost 6 hours to drive the last 150 miles which left us only 45 minutes to hunt on the first day. We road hunted and picked up 5 birds. We left the dogs at the house and the only bird we knocked down and didn't find was one on this day. Considering the conditions, this was amazing as we dropped many a bird in the snow filled, barely frozen cattails along the roads. Dog work was amazing from my 4.5 year old fox red lab that I got from High Caliber Labs. This was her 5th year hunting in SD. She was 5 months old on her first trip and you would have thought she was a 5 year old dog. We also had a 10 month old yellow lab that did ok and finally caught on to the hunting part of it by the 4th day. She had been on the dove field several times this fall and had the retrieving down but the find/follow/flush was slow to come.

I could give you the day by day but will spare you. By the end of the week, we had bagged 58 birds and only lost one downed bird. Of course all wild birds, hunting all private ground and road hunting. We usually hunt a few public grounds but because of the snow and water we elected to avoid these areas. From a boy that grew up in PA and now lives in SC, it could not get any better. The area we hunted was supposed to be down 40% but you would have never know it. We probably saw more birds this year than the last 5 years put together and this does not include the several hundred bird flush. It's really all about timing. We timed it right. Crops were nearly all harvested, the snow and cold bunched up the birds, and 50% of normal bird habitat was under water. Put all these factors together and you have the week hunting like we had. View attachment 9604View attachment 9605View attachment 9606View attachment 9607View attachment 9608
 

sjohn

Member
Just a few more pics and a videoView attachment 9609 Cant get video to load.

Another note. We didn't see another hunter the entire week! if you did not go this year, sorry to hear that. If you are thinking about still going, get in your truck and go. Just be very careful with the flooded cattails. The birds are there but it could be very hazardous to you and your dogs. If you read the prior post, we targeted shallow cattails. I could walk on some if they were very shallow but if they were more than one foot deep, they would not support a person. Best of luck. john
 

danimal

New member
Awesome post,great pics and sounds like a great time. I was kinda thinking birds would be bunched up in clean wind blown areas...what part of SD were U in?
 

sjohn

Member
Western part of Douglas and Northeastern part of Charles Mix Counties.

My friend whom we stay with has three groups of hunters (friends and family) come every year. This was the best week of pheasant hunting he can every remember. Also wettest year! Road hunting was the best ever too. Birds held well too, for the most part. Another interesting observation.... 70 to 75 percent of birds we flushed were roosters. Not sure what this means but we saw very few hens. On our hosts farm we killed 10 roosters, three got away, and only jumped 4 hens. We hunted it again on the last day and flushed 4 roosters and 5 hens. We took 10 roosters off the farm three days prior so it was nice to see the birds came back to the habitat.

Good luck. john
 

randywatson

New member
we hunted central stanley county and western lyman. with the late crops coming off and other hiding areas filled up w snow birds were concentrated. Saw lots of birds roosting in bare trees.
 

jmnhunter

New member
Nice report!!
Dad and I plan on going out this weekend, we've heard dismal reports for the Huron area but its just fun to get out anyhow. Will report back
 

Flushedup

Member
I will piggyback on this one as well, since why not.

We went out to Eastern SD area from Dec 4-8, 5 of us for 3 days and then 2 left saturday. This was an interesting trip, as you really dont know if what you can believe off the internet - people talking about water problems sounds like no big deal behind this keyboard, but when you actually get out there.... Holy smokes.

We tried the normal cattails and heavy cover way of hunting the first 2 days and fell in up to our knees more times than a person should. So other than for a few birds at sunset when they were loitering around the edges, we were not very sucessful. The evenings consisted of Bud lights and boot dryers, while sjohn (here in this thread with all the cool pics) would be texting me telling me to road hunt more.

Well, you know the definition of insanity so we decided to drive more and walk less. It did pay off and if we could shoot straight we would have had some decent numbers to brag about. The trip itself was a success as we did see birds - we acquired a land owner that seems to be pretty accomidating and friendly for a little private land.

I am seriously considering a trip back, over Christmas break when the tails are stone hard. I just love getting in there and having a bird get up nice and close.... hearing the doggie run around and putting on some leg muscle. Good luck everybody, stay dry.
 

jackrabbit

New member
I'm going to piggy-back a report onto this thread as well.

Mid-November I hunted south central area of SD and had one of the most successful hunting trips I've had, a mix of public and small private areas. Saw birds everywhere along roads, ditches. You can find that report somewhere on here... Fast forward to my return trip Dec 12 -14. What was supposed to be a full day of hunting Dec 12 turned into making it out for the final 2.5 hours of shooting time because of a sick child in the middle of the night a few hours before I was supposed to leave. So I headed to the general area I had luck in a month prior, with the plan of hitting 1 public piece, and walking ditches and minimum maintenance roads that had all the right necessities nearby (grass, food, water, thermal cover, tree lines). I was very surprised at how knocked down and snow blown the cover was. Finding ditches and min. maint. roads with quality stuff worth walking was difficult. The ones we did walk, and the 1 piece of public that generally produces well, did not have a single bird in them. While driving, I saw very few birds (again, 1 month ago in this area there were more birds than ever). The only birds I saw were in tree lines close to homes, cattle, buildings, etc - all within the 660' safety zone of a dwelling or livestock. Some of them did have a significant amount of birds too.

Dec 13 - Met up with a few guys and hunted public for 3 hours in the south central area. Spent the morning scouting new areas that looked promising, about 30 miles further south of where I hunted the day before. In those 3 hours, only saw 1 rooster and missed it. No hens even. We did walk one min. maint. road that had probably a hundred bird flush a little ways off in the private land next to it. Cool to see, but nothing we could shoot. Drove 2 hours west to some private land we had and the house we were staying at the next couple nights. Hunted a weedy patch in the middle of a just picked cornfield that we knew held birds. We knew the birds would be bunched up somewhere all together within this maybe 50 yard wide x 300 yard long stretch. About 3/4 of the way through we found the bunched up birds, of course once one flew they all flew, and they were all about 50 yards ahead of us. We did manage to get one. So that was it for the day.

Dec 14 - Hunted private land that we have had access to for 10 years. Friends family owns the land, our group of friends get to hunt it each year the weekend after they are done with their paid hunters for the year. 10 years ago we were able to get easy limits of 30-40 wild birds (depending on group size) without a problem in a few hours, and that was after about 8 weekends worth of hunters ahead of us. Was not uncommon to see hundred+ bird flushes at the end of fields. Each year since the bird numbers have declined. This year we shot 1 wild bird, and handful of released birds that were leftover from the previous weekends worth of hunters.

Summary of my story - SD keeps you humbled and always wanting to come back for more. One month ago was the best trip of my life, especially public land wise. This trip was the worst trip of my life as far as bird numbers go, especially public land wise. That said it was still a blast.
 
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watermen

New member
I did a similar deal this weekend. We were in the snow zone and had difficult getting around except for the use of a side by side with tracks. Without it I would not have made it. The area I was in had good bird numbers with probably 70% hen ratio. 80% of the birds we killed were wild, but not all. We killed all birds out of tree rows, sloughs and corn strips. Incredibly wild birds that would head out and toward the posters early. The exception being birds in corn strips that they would sometimes wait till the end to flush. The sloughs will never freeze with the snow blanket on and the way we drove them was to put the dogs down and drive them with the side by side in the shallower parts. The grass was snowed in and useless as cover all ready. Hopefully they will get a hatch next year as they have the birds to do it if they carry over. We saw some 100 bird flushes and had a great time with lots of shooting. We always stopped a bird or two short of a 6-9 man limit to head in and eat and throw several back. I had not been back to SD hunting since '13 and was glad I did. It was a fun weekend and I had not shot driven birds since I went to pointers. I saw several hunters on the weekend and heard a fair amount of shooting. I drove 29 and 281 going and coming, It's wet but not any wetter than 20 years ago. It was fun to see everybody, there is definitely a fun side to late season SD.
 

jmnhunter

New member
Nice report Jackrabbit, sounds very similar to mine.
Dad and I met up around the Madison area on 12-13 and drove around to some public areas trying to find something "fresh" that hasnt been hit within the day. This was a tough task; anyhow, first WPA, some tracks, but no flushes. Cattails were borderline walkable but did break through, had to keep to the shallow side; thick enough for the pup though.
towards the end of the day, we found one GPA that had great cover, lots of tracks, a few wild flushes. Did walk a small 1 acre cattail slew that we saw a bird land into, ended up being 5 or so birds but they were also all wild flushes.

Day 2; similar situation to Jackrabbit, family farm with some historically nice CRP, this is south of huron about 40 miles. they usually have hunters hit it opener and on and off during the season. This year, only on opener was it hit since we were there. We got really excited to go out, but very sadly, we pulled up to the crp chunks that used to be lush, thick, and provide great habitat only to pull up to see it all laying down as it looked like it had been hayed (although it had not). Not sure why it didnt grow well it all this year; our family farmer said the snow did knock alot of it down, but still should have been some good cover. First time since the 90's we did not kick up a bird int here since it was so sparse not even a track...
we then tried walking some shelter belts nearby the crp with the same results
drove to a cane field, there were 5-6 birds in there that flushed wild (alot of cane in the area this year)
Drove to the last CRP chunk, here again, historicaly the thickest stuff you could walk/find, used to be a bird factory with large numbers of pheasants (160 acres), but sadly, driving to the field, it might as well been a golf course, same thing, grass was not thick at all, laying down, no sign of life besides one flock of sharptails for the first time ever.
this 160 also has a shelter belt next to a corn field we walked, some old tracks in there but no birds; also a 1-2 acre cattail slew we saved for the evening hunt. flushed 2 roosters out of there at sunset along with a handful of hens. got the 1 rooster.

day 3; dad and I decide to drive back home as I had to go north and he went south. I drove by some public areas on the way home and did find one near the MN border that was the thickest piece of public land I've been in wild sunflower and some other woody type brush I can never remember the name of, but it does a number on the pup... anyhow, the small area i did hit, had the birds you'd expect to see in SD, managed to get 1, while the others flushed wild.

some takeaways; regardless of the numbers, still a great time to be with company, telling old stories of the good old days. still some corn standing, but not a whole lot. alot of cane fields, public land areas had plenty of hunting pressure-I do not buy into the adage of "Hunt late season and everyone has hung it up for the year"--this may have been the case int he early 2000's but not now, everyone else has caught on.
all in all, we do plan on hitting it again after xmas but we will be driving more to new public areas as the private stuff doesnt have the birds anymore..
 

Goosemaster

New member
Just a few more pics and a videoView attachment 9609 Cant get video to load.

Another note. We didn't see another hunter the entire week! if you did not go this year, sorry to hear that. If you are thinking about still going, get in your truck and go. Just be very careful with the flooded cattails. The birds are there but it could be very hazardous to you and your dogs. If you read the prior post, we targeted shallow cattails. I could walk on some if they were very shallow but if they were more than one foot deep, they would not support a person. Best of luck. john
Wow, that sounds epic.The biggest flush I've ever seen with pheasants, is maybe 20 birds.One time in Saskatchewan, I had 2000 cranes try to land in my decoys!! I really cut loose with the A-5 that morning. Wow, I wish it wasn't such a CRUISE, or I would go!
 
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