South Dakota, hits and misses

A sign outside a Pierre, SD welcomed me and other hunters to town.
A sign outside a Pierre, SD welcomed me and other hunters to town.

My first impression of South Dakota was that it was very dark.  That might be because my departure from Minnesota was 6 hours behind schedule.   No complaints would be coming however, because we had a prime piece of private rooster country lined up for the next day.   I turned off the lights a little after midnight and happily drifted off to sleep knowing that you don’t have to get up early here.  You can’t pheasant hunt until after noon.  (It does change to 10 am today).

Breaking clays at Willow Creek
Breaking clays at Willow Creek

I was greeted by Justin Larson from South Dakota Tourism, and drove to Willow Creek Wildlife where we’d be shooting sporting clays with John Pattillo from and Nate Simmons from   As we drove across the rolling South Dakota terrain, we spotted antelope and deer browsing on the short grassy hillsides.

As we proceeded through the sporting clay course, anticipation was hard to contain as roosters were flying all over the place and deer were standing and staring at you 25 yards away.

It was going to be a good trip.

102513 - pheasant prairie storm

In the afternoon we made our way to Steffen Brothers Outdoor Outdoor Expeditions, hosts for the private land hunt that we’d be taking part in.  Paul Steffen, fresh off his successful run on the NWT and the MWC (first place at Cass Lake), would be our captain and ranger driver.  Our hunt was like a well-oiled machine with safety briefings, strategy sessions and a full-on assault of each piece of grass, corn and millet plot that we’d walk.

Mika with a South Dakota rooster
Mika with a South Dakota rooster

Posters on the end, flankers on the sides and drivers with dogs up the middle.  Shots must be taken at opportune moments, within predetermined windows.

They’ve done this before.

Our limit of roosters came in no time and soon we were back at camp enjoying a cold one and admiring the decor.

How come I never see geese like this?
How come I never see geese like this?

Larson suggested that we duck hunt the next day and who am I to turn down a chance to shoot ducks in South Dakota?   A private-land only license is available over the counter if some remain.  There was a surplus and we picked one up and broke out the camo.  A flooded bean field next to standing corn would be our set up.  As we pulled in a couple hundred ducks would make their escape, hopefully to return later that morning.

Paul Steffen's "Berkley" retrieves a drake mallard
Paul Steffen’s “Berkley” retrieves a drake mallard

Only a handful would come back, but we still scratched out 11 ducks with very few free passes.   These guys came to play!

Mika sit's next to our day's haul
Mika sit’s next to our day’s haul

The day would finish with walk through public land, with myself and Pattillo and Simmons following Mika along side scenic Lake Oahe.  I had no idea how large this body of water was, with steep cuts along it’s shoreline and a huge dam, (creating the fourth largest artificial reservoir in the US) on the south end.  Small specks with wakes cruised across the water as walleye fisherman took advantage of a summer-like day in late October.  A few hens would be bumped up along with one lonely rooster who should have become dinner, but my shooting would be off and he’ll live to spend another day in this peaceful place.

Mika looks over Lake Oahe
Mika looks over Lake Oahe

It was good to see that roosters can still be found on public land even if we weren’t the first group to walk that grass today.

Tonight is the big shindig dinner as the Governor’s Pheasant Hunt festivities get under way, with more South Dakota Pheasant Hunting taking place tomorrow.  Hopefully we’ll have another limit of roosters to talk about!


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