|Cap and 3 Prairie Chickens
Normally, in October (the best month, by far, in the calendar), I would be in the Ruffed Grouse woods. This year, an epic downturn in grouse populations hit the Northwoods. After an earlier trip to Montana produced lots of walking, driving, and worn out dogs, but few birds, I decided to find somewhere, anywhere, that had good populations of something. The South Dakota Grasslands fit the bill. Prairie Chickens were on the menu! The Grasslands are south of Pierre (pronounced "peer"), SD. They are a huge,vast sea of grass, and they are managed for Prairie Chickens. The population this year is high, but don't get the idea it's like hunting pheasant in a good year, where every bunch of cattails has 100 birds.
|Matthew approaches a point by Abbie with Cap and Shack backing.
It wasn't all sweetness and light, however. I managed to get stuck in the South Dakota snot they call wet dirt.....twice! The first time was on a day that was 30 degrees with 30-40 mph winds. After almost being blown off the road while crossing a slushy patch west of Pierre, I hightailed it back to town, and decided to hit a spot I know in the Grasslands. I drove south from Pierre, all the while checking the temperature and watching the wind. I turned in, crossed the cattle guard, and immediately, both axles sank into the ruts! I was still moving, but didn't feel right. I was in 4WD and was moving along pretty good, but I was very concerned about getting back out! After 1/4 mile, that was all the Beast could take. She sank down, and we were going nowhere. I ended up calling a local friend. I knew the ribbing would be intense- and it was. He drove in the grass down to me, and pulled me out of the ruts. Once on the grass, I was good to go. I was there 4 hours, the day was shot, I was cold and hungry. So, I took David and Angela Healan of Spring Creek Ventures out to a steakhouse dinner. (http://www.springcreekventure.com/)
|David pulled me out of the track, back on the grass.
|Sarah's dog, Dan, discovered the wonderful world of porcupines.
Not long after that, Dan, Sarah's dog, took a shine to a porcupine in a cattail surrounded pond. He was pitiful while we pulled the quills out. But, he was back to hunting quickly after that. Tough dog. I always carry some type of pliers, just for this eventuality.
|Cap, Sarah, and Abby and a limit of Chickens
|Jesse and Sarah Gomes, Shelby and Matthew Puckett
|Shelby and Matthew with some chickens
|Sarah and Rye- one of those "wow" dogs.
|Shelby and Shack
We were there the week prior to pheasant season opening. It was quiet, peaceful, and traffic free around town. Saturday, the resident-only pheasant season opened. Prior to that, we never saw another outfit or hunter. It was a great time to go visit the Grasslands. Just be sure to carry some needle-nosed pliers in your vest and chains in your truck. You just never know when you might need them.