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Posts Tagged ‘South Dakota hunting’

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A well-deserved drink.

The weather girl had it right for a change: winter was starting right on time. So did we. Here in South Dakota you can’t start hunting until 10 a.m., to me and my crew, a most civilized statute. Departing Ringneck Retreat, we were in the truck and rolling a few minutes before the appointed hour, down a bumpy farm road past a feedlot and into the boondocks.

A light snow coated round bales and thistle blooms, adding magic to the morning – Tinkerbelle’s sprinkling of pixie dust – to our adventure. Gray skies weren’t enough to darken our spirits – a breeze from the west beckoned canine noses and human feet.

Buddy and Manny got the nod today. After too many miles in their Owens boxes they trembled with anticipation. Park – guns out – cameras rolling – rattle open the door. At the timber patch that was our starting line, Manny rocketed over logs, shimmied under bushes, snaked around the ancient elms’ alligator-skin trunks. The thick grass underfoot yielded not a bird.

Once out of the timber, he was on point within seconds. Bird up! And quickly down. The young wirehair had hit his stride, galloping toward the crumpled rooster, he snuffled it into his grip. A short race back and he relinquished it gently to hand. Fifty yards later, another lock-up, cackling flush and bird crashing into the ditch. Right-left-middle he coursed until the enticing aroma of birds arrested his forward progress. One got away clean. Another was warned with a surprise early shot then grounded with the top barrel. The last rooster in the strip jinked hard right, soaring over our blocker. The shot string from his first barrel drew feathers, but the rooster reversed field and soared three hundred yards over cut soybeans before rolling as he hit the ground.

Manny was off like a drag racer at the green light, quickly outdistancing the young Labrador stationed at heel with another blocker. Scooped up and trundled 900 feet back to me and the camera, the ringneck was relinquished from the tender grasp of a bearded muzzle. Maybe it was the pixie dust, a smidgen of fairy tale. Whatever the cause, it was an enchanting day.

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Where is the Aliner parked tonight?

My guest at Warne Ranch was our “TruckVault Cares” Facebook contest winner, Bill Zeromski. It had been 25 years since he last pursued ringnecks with his late father, so you can imagine the anticipation permeating the air.

But it was also Bill’s birthday. A significant number (I’ll let him tell you how many some day) that many consider a wake-up call: do the things on your bucket list. We did our best to help.

Methodical Labradors teamed with first Buddy, then Manny, with many of the pheasants streaking for the far end of fields and CRP grasses before we could get within gun range. Some shots were taken, some birds fell, and we honored both Bill on his birthday and Bill honored his father’s memory.

We headquartered at the Best Western Ramkota hotel. It’s like a second home to me, having been a guest at least once every season for the last five. So while the Aliner rested in the parking lot, we relaxed in comfort without our wheels. But there are a lot of Ramkotas, so you’ll have to guess which parking lot is harboring my trailer.

The birthday boy, ready for a noisy flush from a wily ringneck.

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I don’t know about you, but so much of the hunt experience is what happens before and after, and even during the hunt there are so many things that are memorable that don’t involve shooting. So, I thought I’d share some fond memories from a couple years back when I was master of ceremonies at the Governor’s Invitational Pheasant Hunt in South Dakota.

One lesson learned: put a gun in their hands, dogs on the ground, and most people are pretty tolerable, including Ted Turner and the Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Permanent Ambassador to the United Nations for the Republic of Iraq.

Classic South Dakota hunt.

Off to the food bank!

I've always wanted to snap a photo of the group I was speaking to!

A sense of the vastness. Click for the full effect.

A South Dakota window opener.

Mass transit, South Dakota style.

Not "old," experienced!

Those ringnecks are in here somewhere!

Where the crop goes after harvest ... at least temporarily.

That's Ted's dog, Blackie. We are getting the "safety talk."

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Thank you! This Quick Quiz is now closed. Quick Quiz: Here’s your regular gun dog and bird hunting fix: a swing and a miss, but preceded by a hit, on a South Dakota pheasant. Watch the video and you might win a prize if you can answer the UPLAND NATION Quick Quiz at the end of the clip.

I’ll pick one winner from all the correct answers … but you can’t win if you don’t watch!

This clip was shot at Krull Lodge near Harrold, SD.

This week’s prize: Logo’d UPLAND NATION soft-sided mini-cooler.

Like winning stuff? Go here … to win cash for your Pheasants Forever or Quail Forever chapter. Go here … to win a Tri-Tronics collar. Go here … to win a hunting trip for you and your child and be on Wingshooting USA!

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On top of everything else, Gov.  Mike Rounds stopped in the pub and visited for a bit!

That’s just how things work in my second-favorite state, South Dakota. Secret public spots shared by good friend Joey … incredible hospitality … and the birds. THE BIRDS! Ten miles from Pierre on the Ft. Pierre National Grasslands, is a place wild beyond imagination. Unplowed prairie like the pioneers found, water, cover, crops nearby and a flourishing population of ringnecks. And sharptails. And did I mention prairie chickens?

After a week on the injured reserve list, nephew Manny was out of the box and hunting before I could get the e-collar on his uncle Buddy. Both were glad to be moving – fast – after a long day of travel from Wyoming. Into the tough cover, the rattle of dry grass, and … silence! As deafening as a thunderclap, the quiet was soon interrupted by our jaws dropping as we found Buddy on point. Manny slid into a beautiful back, and a very young rooster cackled skyward. A second or third hatch? Anyone know what the bird situation was in the area this fall?

Here’s the country:

Joey is a deadeye and dropped the bird at 40 yards. A bounce, two dogs vectoring for it, and nothing. Buddy’s a lackluster retriever, especially if he thinks someone else will pick up the slack. Evidently even Manny fits that bill. Redirected into the thick stuff, and again, nada. A delberate track toward the next patch, though, scared the wing-clipped bird into a race ultimately won by Buddy.

We celebrated with a tall cold one at a local pub, and as we shared videos and toasted Joey’s recent wedding, in walked friend of hunters Gov. Mike Rounds. I hadn’t seen him since our interview at the SHOT show, so a lot of reminscing took place. He’s served South Dakota as governor for eight years, is term limited-out,  and will soon have a little more time for … hunting! See you in the field Mike!

And here’s our bag:

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Yep, we gather the crew and head for Idaho tomorrow, the first stop on our itinerary. We’ll be recording hunts for next season’s programs in Idaho, Montana, North and South Dakota on this leg of the Road Trip. In October, we head south and east, and if all comes together in February we will hunt in Georgia.

Watch for the rig, stop and say hello

You know that feeling: anticipation, wondering if you packed everything, how the dogs will do, if camera operator Lynn Berland’s plane will land on time. Maybe not that last one, but that’s the lot of TV producers.

Anyway, I’ll try to file reports here regularly so you can get a sneak preview of next year’s programs as they are made. Meanwhile, don’t forget to watch the new season on satellite, cable, and over the air. Go here for more information.

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