Ytd thoughts...

benelli-banger

Active member
Returned yesterday from most recent trip..good hunting...crops all in...sloughs frozen...birds pretty well bunched...great dog work, much pointing, which is fun, some of which are held for several minutes...decent, even above-average shooting here...calm for the first 3 days, blew pretty good saturday, but at least it was in the 20's....warm-up coming! highs around 40 for the latter part of the week, have to get back out there! only 425 miles. Boots on the ground about 22 days so far in SD, heading for 30+, weather permitting. Oh, still shooting some pretty small roosters, must have been some later hatches. been shooting #5 shot most of the season, may shift to #4, at least for those shells in the magazine...tough, tough birds!!! Thur/Fri the birds were really out and about in the am/pm...not many hunters around:eek:
 
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A5 Sweet 16

Member
Yep, that's about how I'd describe it too. Glad you had a fun trip. The roosters, particularly those using public ground, tend to be WAY, WAY back there, trying to stay out of reach.

Word of caution about the sloughs people. They all LOOK like they're solid, but they aren't necessarily. Still some areas where even a dog breaks through. Same thing in stands of cattails in ditches. There are hidden culverts where the ice tends to be the worst. And as we know, the water is deeper this year than usual.
 
I just returned from 4 days in South Dakota and did a previous 4 days in mid November as well. Overall, this was probably the most successful year of pheasant hunting I've had in South Dakota and have been doing it since 2009. Some is luck, a lot of it is trial and error over repeated trips out there and figuring out how to turn the luck into your favor. All of my public land hunting was within an hour radius of Mitchell.

November trip - Wednesday, solo, public land, 3 birds in about 3 hours.
- Thursday, group of 5, private land, 12 birds, took all day. Certainly had our chances to limit.
- Friday, group of 6, if I recall, maybe 6 birds, public land. Not a great day, I've documented it in a different post.
December trip - Wednesday, public land, 2 guys and 2 dogs, 6 birds in 1.5 hours, with 4 EASY misses to start the day.
- Thursday, public land, solo, 3 birds by 10:45am
- Friday, public land, group of 5, feeling pretty confident that we could get 10-15 public land birds, ended with 4.... 2 missed birds.
- Saturday, private land near Winner, traditionally very good, 3 birds for group of 7.

My thoughts... there are A LOT of variables in play, but anybody that is determined, in shape, has a decent dog, is a decent shot, can reasonably expect a 1-2 man limit on public land in South Dakota every day. Any large groups on public land and it will be tough, large groups are just simply too loud and often involve hunters that are not as committed to the sport of upland hunting and yell or talk too much, get too tired, etc.

If a spot doesn't look good, then don't waste your time hunting it. If it has nearby harvested corn, shelter belt, cattails, water, and different types of grasses, then hunt it. If it is missing any one of those, then skip it. I honestly don't understand people that complain about the public land in South Dakota. On Thursday when I got my limit in 45 minutes, I spent the remainder of the day driving around scouting new (to me) public land spots and taking notes in the SD Public Land Book on them. I have more positive looking land circled in that book than I could hunt in a week long trip. Yeah, there are spots in the state where there might not be much public land or it may be grazed or bailed, but for the most part every 5 miles there is some sort of public land that you can hunt, often times there are multiple spots within that 5 miles!

Some other observations I have made over the years and this year. When hunting public land, Wednesday is ALWAYS my best day, Thursday is the next, Friday is worst, then Saturday. That also falls right in line with the least to most days of hunters I see out and about too.... I haven't hunted on a Monday or Tuesday before, but I would suspect that Mondays could be hit or miss depending on the weekend pressure, Tuesdays would be good days. If you could make a public trip that involved Tuesdays - Thursdays, your success rate goes up a lot.

As far as how the birds are acting right now, where I was at was just the perfect amount of snowfall. Enough to knock down a lot of the grass and concentrate some birds, but not too much (in most places) to make it terribly difficult walking. The birds held TIGHT. Maybe tighter than I've ever seen. The grass is knocked down and almost makes a little cave or tunnel system under the knocked down grass and snowpiles that the birds can safely hide in. There was several times that my lab would be birdy in a small area for 5 -10 minutes, digging through everything, and eventually a bird would get up. A few hens he even caught. Another example of how tight the birds are holding, I shot one rooster, it went down, the dog retrieved it. I spent a few minutes trying to take a "cool in the field retrieving picture" with my dog and that bird, then also spent a few minutes on the phone returning a missed call from earlier. After 5-10 minutes of standing in this place and being FAR from quiet, my lab acts birdy about 10 feet from me and points a snowpile, starts digging in it, and out flies a rooster. I missed the first several birds of this trip because everything was flushing so close and I simply wasn't used to that.
 

A5 Sweet 16

Member
I missed the first several birds of this trip because everything was flushing so close and I simply wasn't used to that.
Feel. Your. Pain. It only took me 30 years of hunting the dang things to get pretty good at handling those. And still....once or twice a year. Stink up the world & miss a layup. :mad:
 

benelli-banger

Active member
my dogs are pointing so much because of what has been said--birds are holding pretty darn tight, due to snowfall knocking down a bit of the cover. one spot we hunted for the first time this year probably hasn't been hunted this year, and it was plumb full of birds...a dry lake bed that has grass and cattails growing in it, and it is surrounded by picked corn...and it is down low, out of the wind...those birds didn't hold too well! many, many dozens of birds got up...we got a few, but most got away!!!!
 
Great report guys! Thanks for sharing.
I went a few weeks ago and am looking to head back in the next couple of weeks(fingers crossed). They were holding super tight when I went...am surprised to hear this late in the game and more pressure that they are still doing that(snow helps).
 

A5 Sweet 16

Member
Great report guys! Thanks for sharing.
I went a few weeks ago and am looking to head back in the next couple of weeks(fingers crossed). They were holding super tight when I went...am surprised to hear this late in the game and more pressure that they are still doing that(snow helps).
Ummm, don't hold your breath. I wouldn't say "holding tight" is the rule right now. If you're lucky enough to find birds that haven't been hunted much this year...maybe. But to get something to hold tight this time of year, you've got to get close to them first. That's the tough part. Quiet. Into the wind. Hunt backwards from the way most people have been doing it all year in a particular spot. If you're lucky enough to put the sneak on them, then they MIGHT hold tight if the cover allows them to do it. As jackrabbit alluded to, the cover this year is super dense. Bend it over a bit & put some snow on top....the birds are awful warm & safe under it all. If your dog thinks there's a slight possibility of a bird being around, you've got to really let them work the area & figure it out. But...cattails have LESS ground cover in them this year than usual due to all the water. Less opportunity for them holding tight in cattails. The sloughs are virtual runways for them. And once that first jumpy hen goes, they all go, whether that be off to the races, or flushing. This is particularly true the last hour of the day when they're in roosting cover. If you can find them earlier in the day, when they might be a bit spread out if weather permits, you'll stand a better chance of finding some that aren't quite so jumpy. But you've got to exercise extreme stealth tactics either way. And if you're in a big enough group, position blockers strategically. A couple guys can be more effective by hunting toward each other & trying to pinch them. They're still South Dakota ringnecks. And they're almost as smart as a springer spaniel by now. Almost.
 

jmnhunter

New member
heading out this friday, plan to leave work early enought to hopefully get a afternoon walk in; destination is just NW of mitchell, but I think i'll hunt around Madison on Friday. sounded like there was some snow there a few days ago, but i hear there is some rain forecasted tonight. cant wait!
 

A5 Sweet 16

Member
I think i'll hunt around Madison on Friday. sounded like there was some snow there a few days ago
Have a great time! Not to be discouraging, but I don't think there's much snow at all in the Madison area. Maybe 1". 2" tops. To find more than that, you really need to get south of I-90.
 

jmnhunter

New member
Have a great time! Not to be discouraging, but I don't think there's much snow at all in the Madison area. Maybe 1". 2" tops. To find more than that, you really need to get south of I-90.
sounds good A5; are the potholes froze over enough atleast if I come across some?
 

A5 Sweet 16

Member
sounds good A5; are the potholes froze over enough atleast if I come across some?
See above from 12-10. It almost seems like actual ponds w/ open water are frozen better than the sloughs. I think probably because the snow had a tendency to blow off & they were able to freeze better. Please err on the side of caution.
 
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sounds good A5; are the potholes froze over enough atleast if I come across some?
From my hunting last week, most of them are. If there is snow cover or a few inches of snow drifted up, then it was questionable ice beneath it, if it was bare ice it was more than solid. After walking one cattail slough for awhile and being pretty confident on it, the next thing I knew I was in water to my waist. And it was a bit of a struggle to get out of it as each time I tried bringing my knees up onto the ice sheet it kept breaking off. The good news is it was 20 degrees, sunny, and no wind, so once you start walking again, you stay pretty warm. But I had to dump water out of my boots and my pants froze.
 

Vammy

New member
I'm going to vouch for @Asweet16 and @jackrabbit; most sloughs were frozen when I was up there Dec 3-6; but Sophie and I ran into one that was not. 70lb Lab, she broke through first, then I went ankle deep. Weather had been well below freezing for 10 days, so I suspect this was a warm water slough, but it no matter what it wasn't froze solid

And yeah; we busted 4 roosters and 8 hens in this same slough, very close, but nothing is worth a bird. Just be careful out there
 

Birddog23

New member
I just got back from SD this past weekend. Hunted for 2 1/2 days and had absolute beautiful weather. Fresh snow that sparkled in the sun, was powdery, probably 6-7 inches or so. Some knee high drifts. We walked one public land area that's located right across from the private property that we hunt. We walked through sloughs and cattails. I can tell you that most of it you can walk on just fine, but, and I say but, a couple of us fell through the ice up to our butt cheeks. We continued to walk and stayed warm but then went back to the farmhouse to dump the water out of our boots and change clothes. We fell through 3 or 4 different times. This is the wettest I've ever seen it back there. Unreal.

As for the birds, with 3 guys and 3 dogs, we limited out one day, got 7 another day, and only hunted a 1/2 day and got 2 then. Birds were holding very tight. I was shocked, with it being late season and their normally very wild. Our dogs caught 2 young roosters before they could fly, they had dug themselves in so deep in cover.

We had a blast, as I always do back home.......... Now live in Minnesota.... We hunted with my 4 year old black lab, a 7 year old yellow lab, and a 1 year old wirehair pointer. We covered some ground!

All in All a wonderful hunt!!!!!!!!
 

hunter94

Active member
a willingness and understanding to move has been really important to success this year.....through the entire pheasant range. hard to do when you make an early reservation and expect to be in a 25 mile radius of decent hunting...canceling and finding new lodging can be a pain in the ass and costly....seems to be the new norm now, like fishing, keep the damn boat moving until you get into 'em!

and it sounds as though the ice in sloughs is dangerous as hell!
 

jmnhunter

New member
just got back from a trip to sd; started off near madison on friday afternoon, found a small cattail piece and my pup put up 2 rootys; saturday hunted private ground with my dad, and that turned out to be pretty dang good. sunday tried a new piece and only a handful of hens, went back to the piece we did on saturday and the birds were spread out, still a few in there. tried a WIA sunday afternoon and the cover was nice and thick vs mowed off last year, but I noticed some fresh boot tracks in there, so I turned around and went back to the private stuff to hunt the golden hour. I did notice a few more hunters this year, nice weather probably helped. Plan to go back new years and hunt more public ground. I did like the hen to rooster ratio. some peices that were hayed last year were pretty thin this year where historically they were the thickest chunks in the county, so hopefully next year, they are more like that
 

Chestle

Member
My thoughts on the year to date are that 10 days wasn't enough. Plan to remedy that next year and get back to the three ten day licenses I used to do. :)
 

hunter94

Active member
My thoughts on the year to date are that 10 days wasn't enough. Plan to remedy that next year and get back to the three ten day licenses I used to do. :)

careful everyone.......forecast now for 4-8 inches of snow and wind gusts over 50 mph......thru the 27th.
birds are going to be hard hit as well, feedlots and shelter belts will be their only viable cover, the cats will drift over and bury most birds.
 

Chestle

Member
T'was probably back around '08 or so when my group had hunted 20 days straight. Had such a great time we couldn't believe it. Our hosts said we should come back before Christmas and get in on some slough hunts after the birds had flocked up.

Sounded great. We all reconvened back in SD about mid-December. Got all set to hunt, hit the hay ready to get after it the next day. Blizzard was forecast but heck, that wasn't going to stop US!

Lol.

We spent three days snowed in as guests of our hosts watching TV mostly. You couldn't see 15 feet outside with the wind blowing and the snow obscuring everything. Colder than a well diggers rear end too.

So much for a three day return hunt! Still had a good time with the folks we knew up there but you couldn't walk or drive under those conditions.

Just the breaks of the game.
 
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