The indelible mental image is a metal ranch building blown over by the gale-force winds. Up to 60 m.p.h., the TV weather guy said. Of course, that was in Sioux Falls, where the citified weenies freak out at a strong breeze. More like 70 here at Sutton Bay on the Oahe Reservoir of the Missouri River near Onida, SD.
Three years ago we had a sedate, civilized group hunt through standing corn here at Sutton Bay. Today, it was a lean-into-the-wind-or-be-blown-over hunt wherever we could find shelter among the knolls and hollows on this former cattle ranch turned golf and hunting resort (where else but in South Dakota?).
Buddy’s first cast out of the truck was short and to the point, literally. He locked solid on the downwind corner of a milo field, and five skittish roosters screamed first into, then up, then afterburners-on catch the tailwind and we’re outta here gone. Premature shots from this unprepared gunner wing-clipped two by sheer luck. A propitious start, to say the least.
Shelterbelts and tall CRP were our chosen objectives, because both the birds and we could get out of the jet engine-like wind. Most birds flew wild, long before I could catch up to Buddy on point. Some ran, and all knew if they could catch a tailwind, they were home free.
What’s the lead on a ringneck at 50 miles an hour? I never figured it out. Nor did either of my barrels connect with the lone sharptail Buddy jumped at 40 yards. I’ve got to check my choke tubes.
Whether it was the wind, a day off, or new surroundings, Buddy was as disobedient as I’ve ever seen him since puppyhood. It was a fine time to forget the Tri-Tronics collar in the room. As it was, I could barely keep track of my hat being blown off every ten minutes. A collar transmitter would probably be halfway to the Gulf of Mexico by now, either floating the Missouri or in the jet stream.
“Chinese fire drill” best describes the hunt, all dog-and-operator error. That’ll teach me to brag, even in a low-key manner, about Buddy. We finally tapped out, more by sheer luck than any human or canine skill, though the retrieves were pretty good, for a wirehair. This according to one semi-biased observer (he owns springers, but don’t hold that against him).
The pocket-protector types say that moving air, like moving water, generates negative ions (whatever they are), and make us feel good. That is enough to get me out of the truck, even if my butt gets hit by the slamming door on the way.
And seeing this beautiful place again, feeling the raw power of nature, and celebrating the (challenging) hunt among verdant hills and valleys that harbored Indians, pioneer settlers and buffalo, makes the occasional hat chase worthwhile.
Sutton Bay is private, so get close to a member and enjoy a beautiful setting and incredible hunting amidst well-tended habitat. If you’re a golfer, they’ve got one of the best and beautiful courses in the Midwest.
Me? I’d rather carry a 20 gauge than a nine-iron. How about you?
Where would you lace up a new pair of Irish Setter boots? Tell me in the comments section below and you might just win a pair, as well as an Irish Setter hunting coat.