Types of cover

mikeP

New member
I asked this question indirectly in another post but would like to ask again. I am a solo hunter with no dog heading to South Dakota for the first time next year. I understand the disadvantage of not having a dog. My question is, are there certain areas of the state where the cover is more conducive to hunting this way? I am hoping to hunt more in the eastern side of the state if that would work. Thanks in advance for your answers!

Mike
 

A5 Sweet 16

Well-known member
I'd say maybe the northeastern part of the state?? If only because of the unbelievable number of spots available (either public or w/ public access). With or without a dog, a solo hunter would be best served by a relatively small, irregularly shaped piece of cover. Something with some "structure" you can play to your advantage & limit a rooster's options as much as possible. I'm not real familiar w/ that part of the state, but I'd think your odds of finding a little spot like that would be improved up there.
 

mikeP

New member
I'd say maybe the northeastern part of the state?? If only because of the unbelievable number of spots available (either public or w/ public access). With or without a dog, a solo hunter would be best served by a relatively small, irregularly shaped piece of cover. Something with some "structure" you can play to your advantage & limit a rooster's options as much as possible. I'm not real familiar w/ that part of the state, but I'd think your odds of finding a little spot like that would be improved up there.
Thanks!
 

BigRand

Active member
A number of the CREP areas can be fairly small in size and make it easier to corner a rooster with one person. Don't pass over the big areas as some of them are half mowed thus making them good places to trap a bird or two without an exit.
 
I will throw this out for what it's worth.....
I have good dog(s) and can't/won't hunt upland birds w/o them...I know that doesn't help you.
But...I do chase the occasional anterless wt deer if I can get a leftover tag. Obviously I do that sans dog.

I often get to my ambush spot before daylight. All the deer come out, along with the pheasants and it's a real hoot to watch and see where they appear.....also tells me where to come back and look for a rooster once the deer all go lay down...
One morning I decided to take a little walk after the sun had been up a little while, and I wasn't seeing any deer. I had seen 1 or 2 roosters on the edge that I intended to walk. Unlike my walking style with the dogs, I kind of pussyfooted fairly slow along the edge of the crp/cut crop for almost 1/4 mile.Didn't kick up a bird or a deer......my "edge" was coming to an end in a hundred yards or so, and it was all grazed down pasture after it ended.
Walked right up to the edge of that pasture....stood around for a half minute or so and had pheasants squirting out practically from under my feet..Could have shot a limit rght there...

This "edge" was adjacent to 3 full sections of crp...
I will leave you with 2 thoughts......1) pour over sattelite imagry and find cover that ends in no cover....2) walk it to the end and be patient.
I still remember the rooster in KS that got away because I thought there was nothing there and it was a good time to take a leak.....
 

mikeP

New member
I will throw this out for what it's worth.....
I have good dog(s) and can't/won't hunt upland birds w/o them...I know that doesn't help you.
But...I do chase the occasional anterless wt deer if I can get a leftover tag. Obviously I do that sans dog.

I often get to my ambush spot before daylight. All the deer come out, along with the pheasants and it's a real hoot to watch and see where they appear.....also tells me where to come back and look for a rooster once the deer all go lay down...
One morning I decided to take a little walk after the sun had been up a little while, and I wasn't seeing any deer. I had seen 1 or 2 roosters on the edge that I intended to walk. Unlike my walking style with the dogs, I kind of pussyfooted fairly slow along the edge of the crp/cut crop for almost 1/4 mile.Didn't kick up a bird or a deer......my "edge" was coming to an end in a hundred yards or so, and it was all grazed down pasture after it ended.
Walked right up to the edge of that pasture....stood around for a half minute or so and had pheasants squirting out practically from under my feet..Could have shot a limit rght there...

This "edge" was adjacent to 3 full sections of crp...
I will leave you with 2 thoughts......1) pour over sattelite imagry and find cover that ends in no cover....2) walk it to the end and be patient.
I still remember the rooster in KS that got away because I thought there was nothing there and it was a good time to take a leak.....
Thanks Hare trigger. Very interesting, and informative story, with a funny ending!
 

gimruis

Active member
Without a dog, the stop and go method is your best strategy. They'll get nervous when there's silence and often flush. I used to hunt for years dogless and I still harvested a pretty good amount of roosters. More roosters than a lot of people I know who had a dog to be honest.

I'd rather hunt without a dog than with one that isn't trained properly or doesn't listen. But that's another topic for another day.
 

marn

Member
NE part of the state does have a number of smaller CREP pieces that you may be able to push birds to the edges or end of cover. As mentioned walk slow, stop, zig zag and even circle around a good patch of cover. Also without a dog park and walk a minimum maintenance road ditch up one side and back along the other fence line.
 

Golden Hour

Well-known member
Some good advice here. I'll second Haretriggers sentiments. First, I'm an incredibly impatient person. But if a guy is willing to invest a little more time into his hunts, which is perhaps necessary without a dog, take the time to listen and watch. Pheasants are typically walkers/runners, but they do fly. I don't wait at a spot until shooting time very often, but I know in the few times that I have, I've often seen pheasants fly and land in cover. By seeing/hearing, you'll increase your odds of a successful hunt. Really focus on watching in the mornings before 10am and be sure to watch again in the half hour before sunset. There are birds to be had.
 

PeteRevvv

Active member
Allow me to get simple- I'm not being sarcastic at all, mostly.

Are you hunting for birds or hunting for cover? I prefer to hunt cover that has lots of birds in it. So I go to the part of the state with the most birds, not the perfect cover. See, all the non-hunters have been nice enough to install mile after mile of small grass habitat with defined edges right next to food sources. They call them ditches and who knows what they use them for but they are specialized solo hunting grounds so that appears to be their primary purpose. A possible secondary purpose is putting down gravel for the birds to pick at but they put way too much of that down so that's unlikely. Not hard to find them as any map I've looked at marks these hunting spots with black lines. They put them everywhere- my favorites are the ones beside bajillion dollar hunting preserves. You would think with all that money they would pave the public roads around their land and put private gravel roads out of shooting distance but nope- all their birds come out to pick gravel right in the open, free ditches. I always make it to opening weekend as there seems to be the largest volunteer effort to flush birds out of massive crops and cover fields and get them to me in the ditch so I don't have to work so hard.

I'm normally without a dog but more often have one person blocking, which helps, if they can shoot straight. I end up walking ditches in areas I've seen birds while scouting in the morning or last hour of hunting. About 3/4 of the birds are shot way far away from the blocker so I know I would have got them up out of the ditch if I was on my own. Middle of the day I may find a "cover" public area and since I've gone to an area that is lousy with birds, I may bump into a few dummies in there by accident, regardless of how big it is. But that's more of a diversionary tactic for me as I keep hitting the same ditches where I see birds day after day. There are hundreds of birds in every field I never see so they take turns at coming out for a tune up on survival skills. The dog friendly cover that most of the hunters on this site are looking for get hit every hour so you here them talk of letting a spot cool down for week. Really I think they are just waiting for everyone else to give up and let the birds come back in. Nobody else is hunting ditches hardly ever so I have mile after mile all to myself.

That's what's kept my filled out every trip for decades.
 

Golden Hour

Well-known member
Great advice, Pete. I don't road hunt very often, so I forget to consider it, but when I was young and dogless, I spent a lot of time hunting the rights of way.
 

sjohn

Member
Good read PeteRevvv. Interesting take on ditches. In 2019 we had too much snow to walk many fields and in 2018 most of our usual spots were under water or not accessible because of water. For these two years we primarily road hunted and walked ditches that were not full of water or snow. We got maybe 70% of our birds those two years using this tactic. We did have dogs, but when we stopped at cattail slew right next to the road, you didn't need a dog. Just had to be fast and shoot straight. Retrieving the birds would have been more difficult without a dog but you first have to knock them down before you can look to pick them up!
 

Goosemaster

Well-known member
Allow me to get simple- I'm not being sarcastic at all, mostly.

Are you hunting for birds or hunting for cover? I prefer to hunt cover that has lots of birds in it. So I go to the part of the state with the most birds, not the perfect cover. See, all the non-hunters have been nice enough to install mile after mile of small grass habitat with defined edges right next to food sources. They call them ditches and who knows what they use them for but they are specialized solo hunting grounds so that appears to be their primary purpose. A possible secondary purpose is putting down gravel for the birds to pick at but they put way too much of that down so that's unlikely. Not hard to find them as any map I've looked at marks these hunting spots with black lines. They put them everywhere- my favorites are the ones beside bajillion dollar hunting preserves. You would think with all that money they would pave the public roads around their land and put private gravel roads out of shooting distance but nope- all their birds come out to pick gravel right in the open, free ditches. I always make it to opening weekend as there seems to be the largest volunteer effort to flush birds out of massive crops and cover fields and get them to me in the ditch so I don't have to work so hard.

I'm normally without a dog but more often have one person blocking, which helps, if they can shoot straight. I end up walking ditches in areas I've seen birds while scouting in the morning or last hour of hunting. About 3/4 of the birds are shot way far away from the blocker so I know I would have got them up out of the ditch if I was on my own. Middle of the day I may find a "cover" public area and since I've gone to an area that is lousy with birds, I may bump into a few dummies in there by accident, regardless of how big it is. But that's more of a diversionary tactic for me as I keep hitting the same ditches where I see birds day after day. There are hundreds of birds in every field I never see so they take turns at coming out for a tune up on survival skills. The dog friendly cover that most of the hunters on this site are looking for get hit every hour so you here them talk of letting a spot cool down for week. Really I think they are just waiting for everyone else to give up and let the birds come back in. Nobody else is hunting ditches hardly ever so I have mile after mile all to myself.

That's what's kept my filled out every trip for decades.
Yeah, but hunting right next to a road? No thanks, unless it's the only choice.With no dog? Having a dog, is the best thing about hunting imo.
 

PeteRevvv

Active member
It's not what you assume it is. Half the time we are on two-rut section lines hunting the fence lines next to shallow ditches. These are county maintained right of ways that divide up the square mile fields into quarters. They are public access but not graded gavel roads that nobody but the farmer travels down. The other half is on gravel roads since the paved roads normally have mowed ditches and very little gravel so the birds don't hang around there. Locals are traveling the gravel to the nearest paved road and we are back away from those most often 2-10 miles where houses are miles apart so the traffic is non-existent. Over 6 hours and 50 miles of driving each day we maybe see 1 car an hour, if that. The last hour of the day might get a little more busy with locals coming out to road hunt but we are driving around too instead of walking ditches at that time so it doesn't much matter. This isn't the I-90 corridor but is prime hunting area around Redfield.

It's empty and quiet, all to yourself and unlikely been touched in between you being there. You go into a public walk in area and you start hunting the fence line edges most often there too. If these areas had been mowed into strips you think you died and are walking elysian fields. Why would you look at two available fences rows to hunt 33 feet apart with a blocking strip down the middle next to crop fields and turn your nose up at it just because the strip is gravel? It's all the advantages of private ground but without the cost or time spent getting access. The one frustration is the slough just on the other side of the fence that you know has birds but is off limits. But more often then not you can stop at the next farm house, explain you are road hunting and would like to jump the fence just for the slough and take off. Much easier prospect getting approval sometime than asking to walk miles into there land all day long.

Yes, a dog makes the hunt so much more productive and fun but if you end up in a situation without one, you can still have all the action and success you could hope for in SD once you figure out how to put yourself in an area with a lot of birds and then choose the best habitat. If you are new to this site or the sport it would be very easy to come away with the impression that behind a dog is the only viable or enjoyable hunt possible which just isn't true. That type of hunter just happens to be more dedicated to the sport an thus also post here more often. There is the frustration of having stone dead birds in the air come alive and take off running faster than you can get to them. But then there is also the satisfaction of working the bushes like a detective, watching for a spot of blood, finding your shotwad to confirm where you were shooting, finding a feather and estimating wind drift. Learning the tricks of them hiding under a cornstalk, clump of grass, down a badge hole or in a culvert. Self retrieve is an acquired hunting skill all to itself. It certainly motivates you to stand up and shoot straight without the fallback of the dog to chase down your missed/crippling shots.
 

Golden Hour

Well-known member
Very well said, Pete. There were a lot of years when owning a dog wasn't feasible, but I loved to hunt pheasants nonetheless. Hunting with a dog is a much different ballgame, but it certainly isn't the only game in town! Thanks for thoughts on flushing and tracking without a dog. It's something I haven't done much of in recent years, but it reminded me of some of the amazing finds I've had over the years that are just as satisfying as watching a dog make a great recovery.
 

Bob Peters

Active member
I only hunted out there once, and it was this year during the second to last week of the season. The birds were concentrated and jumpy, but I'm sure you could get some without a dog at this time of year and here's why. When you got into good bird holding cattails, there would be multiple birds and all it took was to get one to jump and then a chain reaction of flushes would occur. Several times when a hen would flush, I would rush towards that general vicinity and more hens and sometimes a rooster would flush. Many times although the dog was on scent in the general area, she didn't flush the individual rooster I shot, because he just got jumpy with all the rest of the birds and by luck or by skill I was in position to make a good shot.
 
Top