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South Dakota Pheasant Hunting Reports/Conditions

  • lindyrig79
    Participant
    Forest Lake / Lake Mille Lacs
    Posts: 3243
    #2161943

    Has anyone been out to South Dakota for pheasants recently? Thinking about making a solo trip. Wondering how bird numbers were/are? Also if there is any snow? Cattails frozen, etc

    Gitchi Gummi
    Participant
    Posts: 1226
    #2161955

    I went out in late Oct and it was so-so. Overall bird numbers have been trending down the last several years and this trip followed the same trend. Yes there are pockets of birds but the public spots get hammered and those birds act just like you’d expect heavily pressured birds to act. Most of the crops were out and we found most of our birds in grass, cattails and shelter belts.

    I’m heading out for another trip next week and will give a report back. I’ll be in the north central area. Luckily I found some private land to hunt this time around. Couldn’t believe the experiences we had on public on the last go around. Multiple groups jumping the same field we were hunting. Even had one group literally shoot at us. I’ve been going out to SD for like 8 years now and never experienced anything like it. Really left a bad taste in our mouths. The decline of birds and habitat on public is bringing out the worst in people.

    Good luck and I’d love to hear a report when you get back.

    Gitchi Gummi
    Participant
    Posts: 1226
    #2161969

    Also, I will add that if you are going on or after December 12th, you should check out Sand Lake wildlife refuge. It is a 20,000 acre wildlife refuge north of Aberdeen that is only open to deer hunting all fall until the 2nd Monday in December when it opens for pheasant hunting. I’ve heard it called the second opener. I’ve gone the last few years and there are lots of birds there and the best part is they haven’t been pressured at all this year. Lots of cattails there but lots of grass holding birds also. If I had to pick between sand lake and hitting any other public spot thats been getting pounded for the last 2 months, I’d go Sand Lake all day. The only reason we aren’t going there again this year is we found a great opportunity for hunting private.

    If you are interested in sand lake, PM me and I’d be glad to share a couple spots.

    gimruis
    Participant
    Plymouth, MN
    Posts: 7887
    #2161977

    Sand Lake wildlife refuge.

    That place is enormous and its like an endless sea of cattails. You can literally get lost out in them lol.

    Being that it isn’t hunted at all until December though, it would definitely be worth checking out. I’m guessing any part of it that is near a food source would be an ideal spot.

    Gitchi Gummi
    Participant
    Posts: 1226
    #2161981

    It is massive but the lake runs right thru the middle of it, so you can break it down in smaller chunks. You’re right though, some of it is almost unhuntable with the seas of cattails and no efficient ways to push the birds to a spot that will force them to flush like you can the end of a grass field. However, after going there for 3 years, we’ve put the time in and found 3-4 really good spots that are very huntable, even for a small group. There are some really good grass spots there too if you can find them so you don’t have to be hunting cattails all day.

    There is a GPA just outside the border of sand lake that always has food on it and we’ve shot some birds on, but its public that’s been getting pounded for 2 months straight and its crazy how different those birds act versus the ones in the sand lake refuge.

    lindyrig79
    Participant
    Forest Lake / Lake Mille Lacs
    Posts: 3243
    #2162030

    Thanks for the replies. I hunted SD twice a year from about 2008 – 2015. Towards the end of that timeframe, CRP land was decreasing in large quantities as farmers put it back into production. That put enormous pressure on public property and also the remaining CRP and other private property. People who always let me hunt their land (and I did give the money) had to say NO because someone else came in with a lease offer. It really changed the whole game and bird numbers were down on top of it.

    But, it’s all relative I guess. I do miss going out there and that’s why I’m thinking I’m due for a trip even if it means going solo.

    Red Reno
    Participant
    Posts: 83
    #2162108

    I PM you. feel free to reach out.

    ajw
    Participant
    Posts: 395
    #2162172

    Spot burning on open internet forums is unfortunate

    lindyrig79
    Participant
    Forest Lake / Lake Mille Lacs
    Posts: 3243
    #2162220

    I don’t think any spots were burned. It’s a massive area out there. PMs sent.

    slough
    Participant
    Posts: 131
    #2162241

    Spot burning on open internet forums is unfortunate

    Never have hunted SD but thought to myself, “why would anyone in this day and age name a spot to go on the internet?” And then in another post the same guy comments how the public land gets way too busy. To each their own I guess…

    Gitchi Gummi
    Participant
    Posts: 1226
    #2162248

    I don’t think you realize how big 20,000 acres is. You should probably tell all the people talking about Upper Red Lake that they are giving away “the spot” too.

    steelslinger71
    Participant
    Posts: 101
    #2162290

    20,000 acres = 31.25 sections (640 acres) of land. Throw in the usually crappy winter weather and the fact that you might be busting cattails all day and I bet you can find a not too crowded place to hunt with not a lot of effort. Having some experience with the lay of the land is going to be definitely a plus like Gitchi stated.

    Gitchi Gummi
    Participant
    Posts: 1226
    #2162291

    20,000 acres = 31.25 sections (640 acres) of land. Throw in the usually crappy winter weather and the fact that you might be busting cattails all day and I bet you can find a not too crowded place to hunt with not a lot of effort. Having some experience with the lay of the land is going to be definitely a plus like Gitchi stated.

    exactly. plus I’d guess >95% of licensed SD hunters aren’t hunting in mid December and beyond which is the only time you can hunt there

    Matt Sayer
    Participant
    Posts: 3
    #2162380

    I was out there Thurs-Sun. In the Aberdeen area. Private ground. First trip of the year. I was anticipating better numbers after hearing reports. We did fine-I would say about the same as last year(which I was happy with) but not significantly better. My father-in -law hunted the same area in late October and was very pleased with birds he saw, he definitely thought there were significantly less birds around at Thanksgiving. They had a brutal ice storm a few weeks back and Im curious if that knocked some out- I did find several spots where a bird had clearly died but not an overly large number and that isn’t uncommon no matter what. Thankfully the warm-up gave the area and cover a reset. I will say the Cattails are as thick as I’ve ever seen then-and Im a die hard Cattail hunter. Absolutely brutal in them. The Sand lake hunt is mostly cattails- I can’t say about other areas of the refuge but they did a large CRP burn on the South end so its literally only cattails on the south end. There are birds in there but you will earn them! Frankly 95% of guys (and their dogs) won’t/can’t work that hard- just want people realistic about the style of hunting that’s out there.

    onestout
    Participant
    Hudson, WI
    Posts: 2482
    #2162511

    I love, even prefer late season. The problem is it’s hard to find anyone else to go out there and I prefer to not be walking around in the middle of nowhere by myself anymore. Early season hunting was good but extremely dry, all the water holes are dry and the dugouts are down to very little water in them. Bird numbers were up a little maybe, but it could have been just from them all being flocked together near water. The birds were a very late hatch, their tails were so short you couldn’t tell the difference between a rooster and a hen, I even got one bird that didn’t have his neck feathers yet, they were still pin feathers just coming in.

    empty_stringer
    Participant
    Posts: 146
    #2162519

    We were out the day after the ice storm (three weeks ago) and all grass was laid down. Found a fair amount of birds on the private stuff we hunt, cattails and shelter belts. Also saw a fair amount in the ditches, fields late afternoon. Headed back out a week from Friday.

    lindyrig79
    Participant
    Forest Lake / Lake Mille Lacs
    Posts: 3243
    #2164047

    I just got back. I was hunting west of Aberdeen. Kinda like Gitchi said there were some pockets of good bird numbers but public land was not very good for the most part. I did walk some ditches and section lines. Luckily I did not bump into too many other hunters which was nice.

    It seemed to me that the birds were pretty bunched up and mostly on private land. Although I was working this good size WPA at one point. Had a real nice mix of grass and cattails. I got frustrated because there were tracks all over the place including some very fresh ones. But we didn’t put a single bird in the air. Still not sure how that happened but thinking they were just running on us.

    Ended up getting my limit on my last day of hunting so that was a good note to end the trip on. Had a lot of fun exploring and seeing some new parts of the state. Thanks for all who chimed in.

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