What hits you first is the quiet.
A weekday on this South Dakota prairie must be today, what it was when Lewis and Clark traversed it 200 years ago. Stillness, interrupted periodically by the soft luffing of the occasional breeze. But mostly silence.
One, two centuries ago, you could feel the deep, visceral rumble of a bison herd, audible miles away because there is nothing competing with it out here. Today it doesn’t take much to hear it in your mind, if not your ears. But once the dog is out of the box, the quiet is punctuated by collar jingles and panting as he courses the limitless, featureless hills.
Stealth became the strategy for the hunt as well. Last visit, nervous sharptails flying at the clunk of a truck door taught me to be a bit more stealthy. I park a half-mile from the likely looking knoll, take Buddy’s collar off, and keep the whistle in the pocket.
On cue, Buddy locks up. Skylined on the hillock, he creeps, vectoring the faint scent. In an echo of the day, the birds flush on virtually silent wings.
A couple more seasons, and maybe we’ll both figure out sharptails.
Rule #1: Go to South Dakota and see for yourself.
Rule #2: Tell me where else you’d go wearing a new pair of Irish Setter boots, and you might win them and a hunting jacket too. Right there, in the comments, is where you do this. Now.