Watch: Hunting Wild Pheasants in a Winter Wonderland – South Dakota 2020

From 2000 to around 2012, the highlight of my year was the week I hunted in South Dakota. That was back during peak pheasant (see chart below), and it was to see a few hundred of those birds a day along with dozens of sharptails and huns.

SOUTH DAKOTA PHEASANT HUNTERS AND AVERAGE SEASON HARVEST 1980-2019
SOUTH DAKOTA PHEASANT HUNTERS AND AVERAGE SEASON HARVEST 1980-2019

Most years I went out for the season opener in October. One year I held off until November, once the crops were out of the fields all the hunters had gone home.

The day after I arrived, temperatures dropped from the 50s to the 20s and a blizzard  rolled in and buried us. I spent the rest of the week hunting in conditions like you see in this video. I had a 12g Fox Sterlingworth and a chocolate Lab named Jack. For four days, we had thousands of acres of land, and thousands and thousands of pheasants, to ourselves.

Hunting Wild Pheasants in a Winter Wonderland - South Dakota 2020
Hunting Wild Pheasants in a Winter Wonderland – South Dakota 2020

It’s a grouse salad…pass the vinaigrette…

I’ve always been told that grouse switch to Aspen buds as cold winter moves in and the ground freezes up. This string over at Upland Journal proves that that’s not the whole story. Some bird’s diets are a bit more diverse.

Ruffed Grouse crop, stuffed with ferns & buds
Ruffed Grouse crop, stuffed with ferns & buds

The bird was shot in late December. Check out the content of it’s crop (and just how full that crop is) to see what it has been eating.

I think that green, leafy stuff is Toothed Wood Fern.

Ferns & buds from a Ruffed Grouse's crop
Ferns & buds from a Ruffed Grouse's crop

Ghost grouse…

Happy 2012.

Well, another upland season has come to an end for me and Puck – our seventh season together. December was a good to us. We saw quite a few grouse each time we went out. Our last time out hunting was the day after Christmas. The weather was in the mid-30s and there was 2″ – 3″ of snow in my covers – not too much to put the birds off of feeding on the ground. We hit a couple spots and got into 6-8 birds.

But while the birds were there, they weren’t holding for points. I think some were on the ground and others were roosting/feeding right off the ground. Either way, they all flushed well before I made it to Puck. Here are some shots from the day. Enjoy.

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