Trip Report - WARNING - Long Read

Matt D

Well-known member
Just returned from 9 days of hunting. Put 3550 miles in this trip from OH to SD. Hunted a much wider area this year and it was fun exploring new areas of the state. For the most part I would say bird numbers were up but we had one area that the land owner said they weren’t and our experience would back that up. Saw way more sharptails and chickens this year than ever before. Had one rooster with Spurs just shy of 3/4” and 24.5” tail feather.

Day 1 - finished driving and in the field at about 12. Finished up about 2:30 with a limit. Great to hunt new ground and make some new friends for a return trip next year. Hunted along the James River which was also new for us and the scenery was awesome and had one pretty big flush. Overall shot good. Warm at 74 today.

Day 2 - another new to us area and another great new landowner contact. Different area than we had ever hunted before just 3 miles from the ND border and a few hours from day 1. Really neat to see a couple sections that were truly being managed for the birds. Bad part for us was the neighbors two quarter sections still had lots of standing corn and great shelter belts and such so there were a lot of birds over on that but we covered the ground we had access to and saw birds and were finished in about 4.5 hours and also had a sharptail in the bag. Add a nice yote we killed and overall a good day with good shooting again! Warm today as the truck said 76 when we were done.

Day 3 - now in to our more usual hunting area. Great to start to catch up with the landowners we have gotten to know. Amazing how the landscape changes from one year to the next with water in some new places. Biggest change from last year was crop harvest much farther along. Our first farm bird numbers appeared to be the same as last year. A little surprised after all the talk of great hatch and numbers and such. Moved on after killing 1 to another farm and found more of what we expected as far as bird numbers. Shot 4 more there pretty quickly and then left as it was getting hot for the dogs as we saw 80 on the truck this day. Ended up getting our last bird down the road while walking a road ditch as we wanted to give the dogs a break. Excited for what we saw for bird numbers.

Day 4 - hands down the best overall upland day we have had in SD. As we pulled the truck up 20 grouse got up beside us. Started in a big draw in the middle of shelled corn field. Water at the bottom of it. Dogs worked great. Worked this down and back and between us had one rooster and 2 grouse. Here we split apart as I took the outside edge of the corn and my buddy hunted another finger of cover that angled back towards the truck. Got to the back edge and got a rooster. Turned now and headed towards truck and both of us are going to converge where we think the grouse landed. Small miss calculation there and I find the grouse one valley sooner than expected. Shot a double out of that flush while my buddy had bird’s eye view of it all unfolding. Wish he had been 40 yards closer to get in on the action. End of first walk we had 2 roosters and 4 grouse. Now we split up and start walking fence rows and standing flower edges. I drop him off and drive around to the other end and park truck and start walking edge of sunflowers. Don’t go 30 yards and a flush but a miss. Not ready for it. No shots rest of that stretch. Heard my buddy shoot and he gets a rooster. The next half a mile of sunflowers I get 2 roosters and a grouse with three shots so now we need 1 of each to finish out. I break down the corn edge walking what he had already walked but he left me a little spot out by a damn while he is getting the truck to come around and pick me up. Get right to the tip of it and what should have been a slam dunk shot glides safely away with a double miss. Two more fence lines left to walk with shelled corn on each side. Drop him off and I drive around and park at the end of his fence row to head down a different one. While getting dog out of the truck I hear him shoot and grouse limit is now filled. He tells me to go find the last rooster. I start down my fence line and breeze is perfect. Put some hens up. Another grouse and then the dog is going nuts but can’t get through the fence. Rooster goes scooting out, single shot and perfect retrieve. Birds keep flushing ahead in the fence row. The day is finished at about 2:15. Call him to let him know and he watched it all unfold from the hill above as he was walking towards truck. Still warm at upper 60’s. Dogs holding up great by rotating them frequently and lots of breaks and swims.

Day 5 - weather is changing. Windy and temps dropping through the day. We spent about an hour hitting a couple places and then went to help with a veteran’s hunt that a landowner we know was hosting at his farm. Did two pushes with them. The first one was surprisingly slow. Standing flowers a quarter section over likely the culprit. The second one didn’t disappoint in any way. Incredible number of birds and we ended up with about 50 birds for the group of 20. The veterans had a great time and their smiles really showed it. It was fun to get to talk to them in between walks. John told us he hadn’t shot a shotgun since HS in 1967 but when he found out he was going on this had been going to the trap range with some buddies. Also said he had dreamed about this for weeks prior and the hunt was playing out just like his dream.

Day 6 - the weather has changed. We travelled about 1.5 hours to our farthest point SW of this trip. Ended up doing 50 MPH for the last 20 miles as snow was falling and wind was blowing. Came across some great looking land and overall the day was a success as we were able to put together a limit of roosters. Had a small encounter with a skunk and a coon. Between the wind and temp change quite a different day. Fun to explore a completely different area and landscape. We will be spending more time in that area for sure. Shooting was not as good today as we had some pretty big flushes and think it got us rattled a little.

Day 7 - headed the opposite direction today about 35 miles or so to visit a landowner we had not hunted on in a couple of years although we have stayed in touch. Was great to catch up with him and his son. Saw good numbers of birds and should have been done early but didn’t hunt a couple spots quite right and watched way too many escape. Ended up running back to one of our standby spots and in about 20 minutes got our last 2 to finish off the limit for the day. Another good shooting day.

Day 8 - The streak is over. No limit today. Travelled about an hour and a half today. Was more social visit and then hunting. Saw decent bird numbers and had our chances but shooting was not as good today as it had been so far. Gonna have that happen occasionally. Temps were a little milder today but the wind more than made up for the warmer temps as it was strong from the west all day. Dogs starting to show some effects of 8 straight days of hard hunting. Couple of barb wire gashes and some rubbing from some cockle burrs starting to surface.

Day 9 - the day all traveling bird hunters hate to see arrive. Last day of the trip. Worked out we could only take 4 today at the most to stay within our possession limit. We had given birds away and ate a decent amount to be able to keep our possession limit in check since hunting for 9 days. Went to a little spot we had not hunted yet this year. It didn’t disappoint. Had 3 in pretty short order and in reality should have finished up right there. Had one more spot we planned to hunt to finish up. Last year there were birds like crazy in this spot. This year was the opposite. Flushed one hen and that was it. Decided to call it a wrap and head east.

Some random thoughts from our best trip to date. Walk cover to the very end and I mean the very end. Enjoy every minute of every day watching your dog’s work. That is what it’s all about. Help out others. I’ve been in touch with a few different people out there prior to us, while we were there and after we left. Hopefully been able to help them in some small way. When you get permission on private ground treasure it and do all you can to keep it. Spend a little extra time visiting with the landowners and take them a token of your appreciation. It does go a long ways. If you put in the walking it will produce birds. Our lowest day was 10,500 steps and our highest was 26,000, averaged 14,000 per day I would say.

We are blessed to be able to come to S.D. and enjoy this great area. Already making plans for next year’s trip and how to extend it by another day or two. For those that are interested the cost for each of us without license was about $950. That was a total of 10 nights lodging, all food and substantial adult beverages. Other than travel days we cooked all our breakfast and dinners and ate VERY well. Packed lunches to eat on the road each day. Half of that cost was lodging. A few pictures from the trip.

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Phil81

New member
Love the pics and your daily hunt log. Sounds like you had an awesome trip. I’ve been on this forum living vicariously through everyone who is there or has gone. I leave Wednesday and hope to have similar success. Weather looking ok..could be colder but 40’s isn’t terrible
 

Bob Peters

Well-known member
I really love those dogs. So pretty. On the Browning CXS, what is the story on that wood. I have one and it looks nothing like that, and also the butt pad looks really thin. Good report.
 

sjohn

Active member
Yeah, good job Matt D. Nice accounting of your trip. Dogs look great! Getting 8 or 9 straight days of dog work is awesome. Love the pictures and that is totally different habitat than we hunt in SD. One of these years I plan to travel around and hunt like you do. We have settled in an area where we have become familiar with land owners etc. But after about 10 years in the same area, it's time to see some more of SD. Less than two weeks before we pull out of SC.
 

Matt D

Well-known member
I really love those dogs. So pretty. On the Browning CXS, what is the story on that wood. I have one and it looks nothing like that, and also the butt pad looks really thin. Good report.
Thanks. Those are both 20 gauges so that may explain the recoil pad thickness if comparing to a 12? I wish I could say the wood was real but it is hydro dipped. I bought it that way mainly because the gun had the 32” barrels I wanted for sporting clays and the price was right. It does catch your eye though.

Great report; fun read; thanks for sharing! Sounds like you've got the whole thing pretty well figured out, which means you've figured out how to adapt fairly easily. Gorgeous dogs! That pic of them on a hill is stunning!
Thanks for the comment on the dogs. Figured another ESS guy would appreciate them. Long ways from having it all figured out but having a lot of fun trying. Was really neat to hunt such a diverse area this year but the good bird numbers made that much more realistic. That picture may be my favorite from the whole trip.
 

dukxdog

Active member
Nice report of a great trip. Glad you had good hunting and memories.

Guess Dan has a new gun he's shooting well.

Beautiful dogs and photos!
 

Matt D

Well-known member
Nice report of a great trip. Glad you had good hunting and memories.

Guess Dan has a new gun he's shooting well.

Beautiful dogs and photos!

Thanks. I've been a bad influence on Dan on his gun and dog buying. :) I sold him that Beretta, and often regret it, but he is shooting it good and enjoying it so that is great. Sorry you weren't around the day we were in the area and swung by. Will have to catch up next year for sure.
 

A5 Sweet 16

Well-known member
Great report! Love that you got into birds even when it was warm out. I hope you left a few for us guys who have to wait till December to hunt!
They had 4 FBESS!! It's entirely conceivable they could've shot every last one!! Yet, I have it on good authority there are still a few left. ;)
 

jackrabbit

Active member
thanks. I really enjoy trying to get good pics to remember the trip by.
So do I! The few times a year I hunt in groups, everybody is quick to end the hunt and hates the idea of pictures. Just spend a few extra minutes to get the right angle, lighting, etc. and you get a lifetime memory.
 
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