YAKIMA, Wash. — Several towns in South Dakota have suddenly become very fond of me. Or, at least, that is the vibe I am getting based on the number of email offers I have been receiving from them lately. Aberdeen, Mitchell, Huron and others are kindly reminding me that pheasant hunting season is quickly approaching and they would sure like me to come and hunt near their towns.
Heck, the whole state of South Dakota is wooing me. I feel honored.
Some-where at some point in time I must have signed up to win a free pheasant hunt or something because they’ve got my number, er, email address and I am receiving some really nice invitations.
Of course each of the emails is letting me know that while pheasant numbers are not at record highs this year in the Mount Rushmore state, there are still more birds there than wherever it is I live.
And of course, they aren’t wrong. South Dakota is definitely Mecca for those of us who love to hunt pheasants.
I have been to South Dakota twice. The last time I was there it was a sight-seeing trip with my wife Terri a couple of summers ago. We did Mount Rushmore, and got a quick peak at Devil’s Tower, but that was about it. Frankly, I didn’t even see a pheasant on that trip.
The first foray into the Dakotas was specifically to hunt pheasants. A group of Yakima Pheasant Forever members put the hunt together and we drove, and drove and drove some more, and ended up hunting around Winner and Pierre. And, even though the pheasant populations were down some 70 percent that year, we still found plenty of birds and had a great hunt.
That was back in 1992. I have always wanted to return, but other than the road trip to see Walls Drug and drive by the exit for Deadwood, I have yet to make it. My wife hates it when we go on a road trip.
Did you know there is a town of Gettysburg in South Dakota? Me neither. But when I spotted it on the map and saw it was not too far from Pierre, I thought, I need to go there if I ever get back to South Dakota again. And when I do I am going to stop and give a short talk to my hunting partners and then remind them in the years following about that other Gettysburg Address.
I’m sure the fine people of Gettysburg, South Dakota have heard that one about a million times. Still it would be fun.
Mark my words, I will go back and hunt in South Dakota sometime soon. It may not be this year, but every year that goes by is another year closer to not doing it ever. My little black Lab Bailey will turn four-years-old in a couple weeks, so she is just entering her hunting prime. I definitely need to do it for her. To let her once in her life hunt someplace where the birds are plentiful.
I envision us walking through miles and miles of grasslands, her scenting and pointing colorful rooster pheasants with two-foot-long tail feathers that cackle as they erupt into the bright blue October skies.
And after I shoot, Bailey makes a textbook retrieve, bringing the rooster to me, then sitting for a few beats while I give her all the adulation and the praise she deserves for being the best gundog in the world.
That’s how I see it in my mind. I guess I probably shouldn’t set myself up for too much disappointment.
From what I can tell, they hunt a little differently on those big ranches in South Dakota. I’m not one of those line-up-in-a-line-and-walk-side-by-side-with-20-other-hunters kind of guy, where everyone shoots at every bird that gets up and no one knows who shot what. I see that on TV and in photos of some of the hunts in South Dakota.
I’d definitely be happy to just take a walk, Bailey and me, through some untamed fields, knowing we have a chance to find a fat rooster or two.
South Dakota’s department of tourism is definitely working overtime this year. They REALLY want me to come hunt in their beautiful, bountiful state. The photos in the emails are beautiful. And the offers are tempting. I am definitely of a mind to do it again. I just don’t think it will happen this fall.
It’s not like we won’t get to hunt, Bailey and me. We’re going to make a trip to eastern Montana, where hopefully there has been a good hatch. And we’ll hunt a bunch around here starting in mid-October. If it is anything like the last few years, we’ll find some pheasants, and some quail, and even a chukar or two.
But it will be nothing like hunting in South Dakota. The best state in the country for pheasants.
Mecca is calling. I just think I’m going to put them on hold for a bit.