My First Pheasant Hunting Adventure
Hunters 1, pheasants 0. That was how I would sum up my first pheasant hunting adventure to the bird rich lands of central South Dakota. Maybe it isn’t quite that clear cut, but the hunting was good, as we got many shots and capitalized on our oppurtunities.
Previously my only pheasant hunting experience was on a pheasant farm where we purchased some birds, then had the opportunity to hunt them. While that experience was valuable, it paled in comparison to dealing with wild birds and some of the tough shots they presented.
My South Dakota experience consisted of 3 days of hunting with my buddy Danno and his dad. We had two great days, but the last day, our territory didn’t have many birds on it, and it was slow. So I’ll just talk about the first two days.
Friday morning, we woke up and purchased some licenses down at a local hardware store in Chamberlain, SD. I purchased a box of size 4 shot, 12 gauge shells and we made our way south to a friend’s farm. As we chatted with the owners, we found out they would be hunting with us, as well as a friend from Tennessee who is 73 years old and had been coming to SD, every year, since he was about 25.
It felt like we were chit chatting at the farm forever in the chilly 35 degree air. I was anxious and ready get my 1.5 year old rookie hunter, yellow lab–Bucky–into some pheasant action. I was nervous for him as I knew his adrenaline was running high from the smells of cows and manure. Getting him to settle down and try to learn what we were doing was going to be quite the task, or so I thought.
We drive away from the house and split our group of 6 hunters into 3 blockers and 3 drivers. Me and Bucky would be on the walk with the 73 year old Tennessean, and the farm owner. About one minute after we exit the vehicle, pheasants are taking off and now my adrenaline is rushing. Not much more than 2 minutes in to the walk, the Tennessean bags his first pheasant. Seconds later, one of the blockers shoots one over a pond. Yet to take a shot, a rooster jumps between me and the Tennessean. I miss my first shot, and we both connect on my next shot, as it was almost simultaneous. Minutes later he shot another rooster and had his limit within 15 minutes of hunting. We shot 4 birds on that first walk, which opened my eyes to what the hunting could be like on my South Dakota trip.
On that first walk, Bucky wasn’t sure what to think as guns were blazing and he was just running around. He found his moment to impress the other hunters as we discussed how to retrieve the pheasant from the middle of the very large pond. They asked me if he would be able to retrieve that bird, and knowing how Bucky loves to swim, I was sure he would get it. My first throw with a rock lands within feet of the floating rooster, and Bucky swims about 50 yards to bring the pheasant back to me, while fellow hunters hoot and holler in amazement of the rookie dog.
The rest of the hunt on friday slowed down, but the more we hunted, the better my lab Bucky got. We finished the end of the day with 3 hunters remaining, needing 2 more roosters for our 3 man limit, and we capped it off in double fashion. As chance would have it, 3 birds jump in front of me, and I drop 2 of them in 2 shots. Bucky retrieved the far bird, and I got the close one. Not a bad start to my first time pheasant hunting in South Dakota. Not a bad start for Bucky’s hunting career either.
Day two we traveled north of Chamberlain to a friend’s ranch. Again with 6 hunters, we were able to use drivers and blockers. Blockers would be the key, this day, as the birds were flushing wildly, and well out of range of most of the drivers. I managed to take down a couple, but as a group, we only got 10 roosters and a grouse. Many tough, long range shots, made it hard to be accurate.
Hunting with this new crew of guys, Bucky did well again, as he was finally learning the smell of the pheasant, and jumping birds using his nose.
Being from Wisconsin, and a fan of all sports teams in Wisconsin, I received my fair share of crap from the Viking fans I shared the field with. Halfway into our hunt, on Saturday, Bucky showed them he was more than a “house, city, Packer fan dog, that had never hunted before.”
In the end of a walk, on the edge of a soybean field, four of us hunters stood there in about a 10 yard square. Breathing a little hard from the walk, and bummed we didn’t shoot any birds, we all kind of stood there ready to walk towards the trucks. Before we knew it, a rooster jumps straight up between us, and nobody shoots. As the bird took off across the open field, the 4th shot finally caught a leg on the bird, but it definately was not a lethal wound.
While that shooting was taking place, I didn’t realize it, but Bucky was watching the bird the whole time, and he took off across the field, as fast as he could (I’d never seen him run so fast), well over 100 yards. I yelled to my buddy to get in the truck and get after the dog before he got too far away. About 150-200 yards away, we see the pheasant finally land, and the dog chase the pheasant up in the air, and wrestle it to the ground. Watching the chase and the wrestling match from so far away, we all couldn’t help but laugh and scratch our heads in amazement that Bucky did that. He earned the tags, “He’s a natural”, “One fast dog”, and “Not bad for a city dog, that sleeps on the bed, that’s a Packer fan that had never hunted before.” I couldn’t have been more proud of my dog, as he earned his praise from everyone in the group.
Overall, the hunting was great. 2 days with lots of shooting, and one day where it seemed like a wasteland. Not perfect, but I’ll take it every time. Most importantly, I got to share the field with some great friends, including my experienced hunting dog, Bucky.
Good luck hunt’n
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My name is Brad Bolton, a husband and father of four. I live in Minnesota and I enjoy spending time in the outdoors and also spending time with my family. If there is water nearby, I want to fish it.