Today’s results

s.davis

Member
I go on one large group hunting trip every year in Kansas and it's every bit as much fun for me as my many solo or party of 2 or 3 hunts. In fact, the loss of those big family and friends style gatherings in western Kansas is one of the things I think is the saddest to see go as the pheasants populations have gotten thinner and the farms have gotten consolidated into corporate holdings with sharecroppers on them.
 

PeteRevvv

Member
Did 4 full days of hunting from opener to Tue and spent mornings and afternoons in different sections of the area bounded by US14, SD45, US12, US37- basically 25 miles either side of 281 from Aberdeen to Wolsey. Got limits for the 3 of us every day hunting ditches. The extra hours and hunting in the sloppy conditions wore us out and on Wed morning we decide to pack up and take out sore shoulders and legs home. We had shot most our shells (glad I brought extra) and got so much good hunting that we were satisfied.

My observations:
- Birds numbers were 3x-5x over last year everywhere we went over a very large area. Every area had bird numbers to effectively hunt where last year we got skunked in many spots and had to stick to concentrated spots.
- Private farm groups were not out. We saw really big groups on preserves but normally we know who in the area has big groups of friends out and they just weren't there. Many farmers were done with harvest which is a first for many decades but they didn't go out. Other road hunters were non-existent so we had the pick of any spot.
- Wind was blowing hard Sat. Snow was light on Monday and heavy on Tue. In all three cases the birds went to sloughs and cattails or fed in the corn. Loafing spots like grass and ditches were empty until just before sunset when they were headed back to roost or to get gravel. We went to sloughs by roads where we had permission to be on the land. They either held very tight (no dog this year to bust them out) or we had 20-30 get up at a time. Every thing was dried out so side roads and sloughs were perfect for hunting. Snow made roads sloppy but not impassible for 4x4.
- Had heard stories about how dumb pheasants are in snow storms but we rarely got easy birds. A few were sitting on the bottom wire of the fence. Seems like they got their second set of winter feathers in already as they were very tough to knock down. We jump one bird off the wire and hit him at 30 yards a foot off the ground, It knocked him back into the fence and flipped him over. It hit the ground, popped back up in the air and was rocked twice again with shots and kept going 150 yards to cover. Landed under power and ran into cattails. About 25% were dead when we got to them. Many others cartwheeled in the air with feet flying and smacked the ground in open areas only to pop back up and run for it.
- Talking to locals at the bars and they had hunters either not show or headed home at the first sign of snow. They had no more coming so they offered us to come out and hunt their land when in past years they were saving it for friends or paid hunters.
 

jonnyB

Active member
Did 4 full days of hunting from opener to Tue and spent mornings and afternoons in different sections of the area bounded by US14, SD45, US12, US37- basically 25 miles either side of 281 from Aberdeen to Wolsey. Got limits for the 3 of us every day hunting ditches. The extra hours and hunting in the sloppy conditions wore us out and on Wed morning we decide to pack up and take out sore shoulders and legs home. We had shot most our shells (glad I brought extra) and got so much good hunting that we were satisfied.

My observations:
- Birds numbers were 3x-5x over last year everywhere we went over a very large area. Every area had bird numbers to effectively hunt where last year we got skunked in many spots and had to stick to concentrated spots.
- Private farm groups were not out. We saw really big groups on preserves but normally we know who in the area has big groups of friends out and they just weren't there. Many farmers were done with harvest which is a first for many decades but they didn't go out. Other road hunters were non-existent so we had the pick of any spot.
- Wind was blowing hard Sat. Snow was light on Monday and heavy on Tue. In all three cases the birds went to sloughs and cattails or fed in the corn. Loafing spots like grass and ditches were empty until just before sunset when they were headed back to roost or to get gravel. We went to sloughs by roads where we had permission to be on the land. They either held very tight (no dog this year to bust them out) or we had 20-30 get up at a time. Every thing was dried out so side roads and sloughs were perfect for hunting. Snow made roads sloppy but not impassible for 4x4.
- Had heard stories about how dumb pheasants are in snow storms but we rarely got easy birds. A few were sitting on the bottom wire of the fence. Seems like they got their second set of winter feathers in already as they were very tough to knock down. We jump one bird off the wire and hit him at 30 yards a foot off the ground, It knocked him back into the fence and flipped him over. It hit the ground, popped back up in the air and was rocked twice again with shots and kept going 150 yards to cover. Landed under power and ran into cattails. About 25% were dead when we got to them. Many others cartwheeled in the air with feet flying and smacked the ground in open areas only to pop back up and run for it.
- Talking to locals at the bars and they had hunters either not show or headed home at the first sign of snow. They had no more coming so they offered us to come out and hunt their land when in past years they were saving it for friends or paid hunters.
Good report -thanks! Tell us, if you will, your technique/strategy for hunting ditches. Everyone does it different, would like to hear your approach: kind of ditches, cattails only, single hunters; farmers object?? long mile runs? Best times?

Thanks!
 

benelli-banger

Active member
Just finished 8 days of hunting; birds don’t appear up over the last year or two, but there are birds. Great weather, dogs say thanks! Just two of us, did our best work focusing on small pieces of cover. Had an epic hunt yesterday, everything went as one would script it...dog work, shooting, recovering birds, etc...finished too quickly! Made pheasant wild rice soup last nite...enough to share with a few farmers whose ground we hunted. Snow greets me this morning...good luck, be safe, hope you enjoy cattails!🥳
 
First day here today 5 man limit by 11am. Hunting private stuff west of Pierre. Snow has some holding tight and some really whiley. numbers are astounding where we are. saw 400 in the 3 - 1/4 mile long shelter belts that we walked plus another 150 grouse/pc. Got to let the dogs work the all season cover crops at a nice slow pace and just let the dogs do their work was the highlight of the day. back there tomorrow to hunt a different section. love me SD
 
Last edited:

haymaker

Well-known member
6 guys had their limit all three days. I knew it would be better but this is better than I expected. 4 limit days out of six, and the two that were not were days spent looking for a dog.
 
Congrats to all of you lucky sob’s!🤣
I was planning to be up there this week and just couldn’t do it. Looks like I’m heading up first week in November. Leave some birds for some of us slowpokes will ya!
 
3 guys, 4 dogs limited out yesterday. Should have been done by 1, but first day of the trip excitement got the best of us! Cattail, plum thickets oh my! Absolutely the most birds I’ve seen in SD in years. So much fun...great friends, great dogs, great birds. What could be better?
 

PeteRevvv

Member
Ditch Hunting-

First pick a ditch that has birds in it. Block'em, walk'em, shoot'em.

My dream ditch has corn on one side with the headrows taken off and roosting cover on the other side with cattails or canary grass with road approach 1/4 mile away. Here's why:

-Cover next to standing crops have more birds than picked crops. Corn is best combination of cover and food they prefer. Sorghum they often never leave but if they do its right in the last hour, bean are not enough cover and low quality food source for them.
- Blocking; prefer to have road approach 1/4 mile down or closer either as physical barrier for a single hunter or posted by vehicle driver. Otherwise birds that are constantly pushed for half a mile or farther get out ahead until they bust cover too far between you and your the blocker. If no road approaches, we post right before ditch goes into any sloughs or grass that attach to the ditch cover so they don't get to it and bail out of the ditch. Or any thin spots in the grass cover where they might get ahead and decide to fly across the open field rather than cross an open stretch.
- Headrows; prefer to have some open ground behind the fence line. Open areas like the road and either mowed field edge or the headrows combined-off will act as a natural blockers. You can walk a weedy fence line to try and keep them from squirting out into the corn but there is a low success rate on ditches if the heavy cover extends right up to the crops.
- Cover selection; ditch cover is just like field cover. Brome grass has fewer birds than canary grass which is high/thicker while still allowing them to move. During snow or rain they are often in cattails so ditches with cattails would be better in those conditions. They ditches you would rather not walk in are exactly the ones you need to get down in.
- Exception to the rule is windy days. Example, for a wind blowing north to south, stay out of the north/south ditches. The preference for East/West roads in those conditions would be on the north side of the road in the lee of the wind since it passed over top, rather than the south ditch which is getting more wind right into the face of the ditch.
- Loafing; early in the day we just to go likely spots that meet as much of this criteria we can find and get out to start walking. The birds are likely already out of the corn and into the ditches early in the day unless cold weather is coming and they are feeding all day. Midday we start to drive and either see them moving in the ditches with a head up, or see the swish of the grass. Drive with the window open and you can hear them. Then we'll keep driving and either double back to drop off blockers or walkers so that we can approach into the wind and closer before busting/scenting them.
Gravel picking; last two hours of the day are driving gravel roads where they will be out picking gravel or moving to cover and we catch them out in the open. Jump out at that spot, blast them and move on. Mark those spots for coming back the next morning/early afternoon for walking as they will likely be loafing there the next day. When you find an area with lots of birds during the last hours, stay in that area and keep coming back. You will have seen a tenth of the birds actually there so most of them are dumb and the ditches will produce 3 or 4 times before you've smartened up the majority of birds in that field.
 

PeteRevvv

Member
One more thing- while going from ditch to ditch, let your dog stick his head out the window beside you. They will scent, hear and see birds in the ditch that you will miss. Funny to see them get birdy from up close and get nervous as they don't know how to point/flush out the window.
 

A5 Sweet 16

Well-known member
One more thing- while going from ditch to ditch, let your dog stick his head out the window beside you. They will scent, hear and see birds in the ditch that you will miss. Funny to see them get birdy from up close and get nervous as they don't know how to point/flush out the window.
I can't BELIEVE I didn't think of this!!! I've known for many years that if my dog is at heel walking on a road back to the car or whatever, he'll scent birds in the ditch. Maybe sometimes it begins by birds leaving a tiny amount of scent actually on the road as they cross it, but I know sometimes the scent originates in the ditch. Why my brain hasn't taken it to the next level...??? It'd be similar to sonar fish finders & the next best thing to using infrared thermal imaging. Brilliant!!!
 
Day 2 hunted with 4 retired fish biologists from across the midwest (South Dakota, Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas) Ive never laughed so hard while hunting in the field. 3 of them are 80 and the other is 75. It was like hunting with Walter Mattau and Jack Lemmon. Took a little longer today to get a 7 man limit with blockers not in the right spot and the 10" of snow slowing us all down but man it has been the highlight of all my 10 years of coming out here. God bless those guys! Hope to see them all again next year
 

Matt D

Active member
I appreciate the reports but STOP IT already. This next week is gonna go slow anyways and all these reports aren’t helping matters. 😁. All the anticipation and then it will be time to head back home. ☹️
 

jonnyB

Active member
Ditch Hunting-

First pick a ditch that has birds in it. Block'em, walk'em, shoot'em.

My dream ditch has corn on one side with the headrows taken off and roosting cover on the other side with cattails or canary grass with road approach 1/4 mile away. Here's why:

-Cover next to standing crops have more birds than picked crops. Corn is best combination of cover and food they prefer. Sorghum they often never leave but if they do its right in the last hour, bean are not enough cover and low quality food source for them.
- Blocking; prefer to have road approach 1/4 mile down or closer either as physical barrier for a single hunter or posted by vehicle driver. Otherwise birds that are constantly pushed for half a mile or farther get out ahead until they bust cover too far between you and your the blocker. If no road approaches, we post right before ditch goes into any sloughs or grass that attach to the ditch cover so they don't get to it and bail out of the ditch. Or any thin spots in the grass cover where they might get ahead and decide to fly across the open field rather than cross an open stretch.
- Headrows; prefer to have some open ground behind the fence line. Open areas like the road and either mowed field edge or the headrows combined-off will act as a natural blockers. You can walk a weedy fence line to try and keep them from squirting out into the corn but there is a low success rate on ditches if the heavy cover extends right up to the crops.
- Cover selection; ditch cover is just like field cover. Brome grass has fewer birds than canary grass which is high/thicker while still allowing them to move. During snow or rain they are often in cattails so ditches with cattails would be better in those conditions. They ditches you would rather not walk in are exactly the ones you need to get down in.
- Exception to the rule is windy days. Example, for a wind blowing north to south, stay out of the north/south ditches. The preference for East/West roads in those conditions would be on the north side of the road in the lee of the wind since it passed over top, rather than the south ditch which is getting more wind right into the face of the ditch.
- Loafing; early in the day we just to go likely spots that meet as much of this criteria we can find and get out to start walking. The birds are likely already out of the corn and into the ditches early in the day unless cold weather is coming and they are feeding all day. Midday we start to drive and either see them moving in the ditches with a head up, or see the swish of the grass. Drive with the window open and you can hear them. Then we'll keep driving and either double back to drop off blockers or walkers so that we can approach into the wind and closer before busting/scenting them.
Gravel picking; last two hours of the day are driving gravel roads where they will be out picking gravel or moving to cover and we catch them out in the open. Jump out at that spot, blast them and move on. Mark those spots for coming back the next morning/early afternoon for walking as they will likely be loafing there the next day. When you find an area with lots of birds during the last hours, stay in that area and keep coming back. You will have seen a tenth of the birds actually there so most of them are dumb and the ditches will produce 3 or 4 times before you've smartened up the majority of birds in that field.
Thanks Pete. ....":drive with window open -can hear them". Never tried this; you must have exceptional hearing! At my age, I'm lucky if I can hear the guy next to me in the truck...
 

A5 Sweet 16

Well-known member
Thanks Pete. ....":drive with window open -can hear them". Never tried this; you must have exceptional hearing! At my age, I'm lucky if I can hear the guy next to me in the truck...
Jon, he's not fibbing (too much anyway ;)). You drive real slow, listening. Very little wind is helpful. Although I don't spend my time doing this anymore, I've heard them. Not very many, but I've heard them. My ears just aren't very good either. Too many years of shotguns, drums & guitars back in the day when nobody considered hearing protection. I have a cousin who hears way more than he sees in ditches. He can usually tell how many birds are in the ditch by listening. Pretty close anyway. It's amazing. This same cousin can sense when a walleye is contemplating sucking on the bait. When they're biting so incredibly light nobody can feel it.....he can feel 'em. It's like ESP. It's really annoying. :ROFLMAO:
 

Matt D

Active member
Thanks Pete. ....":drive with window open -can hear them". Never tried this; you must have exceptional hearing! At my age, I'm lucky if I can hear the guy next to me in the truck...
Off the top of my head I can remember it happening twice and killing the bird both times it happened.
 

PeteRevvv

Member
We try to go as fast as we can in the pickup while still being able to spot heads, pickup movement and hear them which is about 25-30mph. If you go slower, birds are not used to that and will bolt and keep running much of the time if you slow roll next to them at 10-15mph. I wear ear muffs with sound amplification due to pressure issues and have hearing loss due to that at age 50 but I am no where near as good as my brother 10 years younger with just bare ears. Best technique is your head out the passenger side window which is closer to the ditch. It seems the backseat is better as well since they seem to scoot around just as you pass by them. It's a distinctive swish-swish sound that you pick up on. The wind and gravel noise makes a constant whir or slower whoosh for blowing wind. Even with those sound the furtive movement and sound of a bird is there. The more times you stop and get out on those hunches, the better you get and start to believe in it. The birds held so tight this year in the wind and snow that we saw/heard movement on 75% of the birds we jumped in the ditch while driving. of the 45 birds we got, about 25 of them where taken this way.

The movement of the grass is also distinctive. When you spend a lot of time road hunting the change in motion a moving bird makes catches your eye. The wind causes grass to continually bend one direction or wave slowly as it comes and goes. Bird movement is often against the grain of movement and bends the grass too far or snaps out of place. It's the visual compliment to the swish-swish sound. The snow this year clumped to the grass and made movements so out of the norm that I was too distracted by them and gave up on visual spotting. However the grass seemed more compact and amplified the sound.

As for dogs in the truck, we also spent time with a jack russel that would perch on the front seat arm rest. They are ratters, not retrievers but that just makes their eye sight naturally sharp for small movements. He would whine/yip at the site of birds stirring up ahead in the ditch. We would also turn him lose on downed birds and he would pin them most times and allow me to catch up. A few times he got hold of the backbone of a big rooster that was winged and ended up riding it down the corn row like pony until I lassoed them both.

If you ever get a chance to go out road hunting with a local farmer who grew up hunting pheasants it is, no joke, like and indian guide from a TV western. They hear and see 10x the hidden birds in the ditch that we do and make every short and long shot imaginable. It's the kind of thing that comes naturally when you are born into it and do it all your life. 25 years of riding around with them is an education in a style of hunting that is very different than standing behind a dog. Like the difference between stalking a deer and taking a buffalo on horseback. Both a thrilling experience but unique in their own ways.
 
Top