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South Dakota's Tight Sitting Snowbirds

Mike Walerak

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We had a great day in Eastern South Dakota with Rick and my buddy Tim Swank. These are only nine of the thousands of birds we saw.

We recently had an ice storm, but it didn't seem to hurt the bird numbers at all. It might even help them out because it's holding the snow up creating plenty of little tunnels and pockets for the birds to hide in to keep warm.

These birds were sitting extremly tight in both light and heavy cover which made for an extemely exciting hunt.

Sometimes it paid off letting Paris slowly work the the areas we expected were holding a birds. Sometimes we erred and watched tons a birds busting out of cover behind us because we cruised through too fast..

The birds that were in cover held extremely tight today and you either had a good dog like Paris to root them out or you got lucky and had to almost step on them before they busted cover cackling upset with you for disturbing them.

It was a great day and we're looking forward to more of the same tomorrow unless we decide to do a little ice fishing chasing some walleyes.

Are any of you still hunting pheasants? If so how did the storm affect them and how has your hunting been?


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Way to go guys...thanks for the report. Can't wait to get back out there again...maybe this weekend?

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Good work Mike .. nice picture. I'm heading out for the Webster area on Wednesday for a few days, what should we expect for snow depths in the cover? We like to hunt the catails this time of year, is that where you were finding them?

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Shown here is Wade Jensen (the land owner), Paul Waldowski and I with todays limit of roosters. Rick was along on the hunt but opted for the photographer position in this photo.

Today we took full advantage of the balmy weather to find the birds hunkered down near the edges of cover. They were not sitting as tight as they have been the last few days but they are still holding pretty tight for being late season birds.

Today we targeted smaller groups of birds in small patches of cover and as you can see it paid off for us! Today the dogs were crucial more for the retreiving aspect as we had quite a few runners which made for some exciting moments.


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Another great day was added to the books as we had some fast gunning on rather flighty roosters. With the temps below zero and a stiff breeze made conditions far less than ideal.

Birds that were normally our sunning themselves in the middle of the day were tucked into shelterbelts and treelines to hide from the blistering weather.

With the cold at our backs we had to work extra hard to keep up with the birds that kept running ahead and flushing out of range. As you can see nine of them made the fatal mistake of holding tight for the dogs to root them out.

There is warm weather in the forcast so my suggestion is to get out and chase these late season roosters I don't think you will be dissapointed.


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Good report Mike... looks like you guys had a great time!

I just got back last night from a 3 day day hunt (1st time I got out this year...work ick! frown.gif) Found basically the same thing... many many roosters made thew mistake of sitting WAAAAAY to tight! We even had many pointed by my labs, which are not known notorious pointers. We also found many of the roosters bunched up in bachelor groups. Of course the bunches of 200+ birds were unapproachable, but as always fun to see.

With thousands of acres of CRP at our disposal, we decided we'd concentrate mostly on the "edges" of the CRP along roads and fields. Funny thing was the cattails were holding few birds. Most were in the "lighter" grass, corn or shelterbelts, like I said many holding surprisingly tight with minimal cover. We even had many flushes in the corn within 15-20 yards when they could've just as easily ran.

But boy was it cold out there! Haven't hunted in cold weather like that in years... it was rare for it to get above zero, and if it did it was for an hour or two at 1 or 2 degrees above. Monday morning the farmers thermometer read 26 below zero, and in town it was 14 below zero. Good thing the wind didn't blow over 10 miles an hour till around noon. Tuesday was a bit warmer in the A.M., (1 above), but the wind was blowing between 15 and 20 mph and the radio said wind chills were in the 25-35 below range. No water in the house we were renting Tuesady AM... froze up even leaving the faucets dripping.... Had the farmer over Monday night for "pheasant Cordon Bleu" and twice baked potatoes, a cold beverage or two and Monday night football. Sure beat the cheese burgers the night before in town....! grin.gif

All in all great fun, we got our birds, the dogs had a blast including a "rookie" dog on her 1st pheasant hunt... she's been in field trial training for the last 2 years and couldn't make it out with us. (she really was catching on great by the middle of the second day). It hit me yesterday that she is the daughter out of my two dogs I was hunting with and the other dog out with us was a 5 year old daughter (who is really getting it "dialed in") of my female... so it was a dog "family outing"!! It's great to see the younger dogs begin to excell, but sad knowing that the older dogs (mine are 11.5 and 8.5 years old) are nearing their ends.

We're going to try to go back in a couple weeks and see if we can "thin" the ranks of the ol' longtails a little more.

Good Luck! to those still out chasing the birds!


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I went out last week on our annual trek to SD. Instead of 10 hours on the road it took us 2 days - the blizzard had us stuck in Sioux Falls until they opened the interstate.

But it was worth the wait. We hunt south central area, near Gregory. Lots of very big drifts, but birds were concentrated in the shelter belts. Couple of times we had 200+ birds flush. Weds/Thurs we hunted a couple of hours each day to get our limit, but Friday 9 of us surrounded a small 1 acre shelter belt and 20 minutes later we had our limit. It was great watching the birds run back and forth in front of the dogs. They flushed in pairs, then 4s and 5s, then dozens would get up at a time.

Tough walking in some areas but we had a couple guys with snowshoes so they went in with the dogs.



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I envy you guys. I have never hunted in SD, though I did visit there once quite a few years ago and couldn't believe the #'s of pheasants. I see the shows on TV and just can't fathom what that is like.

MN hunting has been very good this year IMO. I have had several 20 bird flushes in a small area and seeing in upwards of 80 birds in a day's hunt has been common for me, but this is still a far cry from what you guys are seeing.

I still have a blast even though I don't see the numbers. My pup is progressing quite nicely and it makes me more excited for the years to come.

Good to see the reports! Some day I will head to SD, but I fear I wouln't enjoy the MN hunting as much then. Such a quandary!

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What can I say?? A great time was had by all. Nothing like new friends meeting old friends and everybody clicking smile.gif Thanks for the awesome time. Make sure you let Joni that I will be back for some more of her cookin'

Thanks again man...you're the best!

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