How many times have you had so many pheasants flush at once that you were unable to pick out the roosters in the bunch?
I can almost guarantee once a year it will happen to me in Minnesota, although I'm still waiting for this year's monster flush. It happened to me at the corner of a road ditch, creek, and CRP field in North Dakota earlier this season. At least 14 birds flushed all at once and nearly all of them were roosters. I couldn't pick one out of the bunch and ended up with a double miss flock shot.
Then there's South Dakota . . . at approximately 11:02 a.m. last Thursday near Highmore, South Dakota, a rooster rose to the sky and the flush of his brothers and sisters didn't end till nearly 11:09 a.m. The scene was akin to a mosquito swarm while trying to fly fish a backwater trout stream. Call me a dirty pot licking liar, but I have 14 other witnesses to corroborate my story. At 11:10 a.m. I gathered myself to realize I'd fired one shot and killed one rooster. I can't even venture an accurate estimate of how many hundreds of birds had escaped my glassy eyes.
It took the perfect scenario to produce this 7 minute flush on land owned and managed for pheasants by The Grand Lodge of Highmore, South Dakota.
1) Habitat - There was nesting cover to produce birds in the spring with thermal cover next to food sources to keep the birds hearty through the winter months.
2) Weather - Last Thursday in Highmore it was snowing, windy and cold causing the birds to bunch up in a 500 yard strip of sorghum next to a cattail slough.
3) Late Harvest - As has been reported, farmers across the Midwest have had a tough time getting their crops out of wet fields this year. Those crops have made it tough for early season hunters to get at the birds feeding in corn fields during daylight hours. In central South Dakota, those crops are now out of the ground and the birds are back in the grasses.
While I can't guarantee you'll have a seven minute flush, I can promise you there are birds to be found in South Dakota. I did notice that more crops remain closer to the Minnesota border making all the public acres surrounding Watertown, Webster and Clark still a challenge for hunters. Nevertheless, those crops are now coming out every day and those WPAs, GPAs, and Walk-In areas will provide daily-improving opportunities for pheasant hunters.
Just manage your expectations; even South Dakota birds aren't going to introduce themselves to you if they can avoid it, so be prepared to walk hard to find your three roosters a day. Be patient though; they are there. And, if you travel to Highmore, there's a little field owned by The Grand Lodge that may make you go blind.
Have Your Own Grand Time in The Pheasant Capital
o Book your visit to The Grand Lodge. Proprietor Mike Solberg is also the primary hunting guide and a heck of a nice guy.
o Bring an appetite. The Grand Lodge features a first-class chef and a menu that includes pheasant, venison, and elk.
o For a full list of central South Dakota options, check out www.HuntFishSD.com
o Shoot Federal Premium Ammunition's Pheasants Forever loads. Not only do they work, Federal donates a portion of each sale back to PF for habitat projects. I recommend 12 gauge, 3 inch, 3 shot, steel.