Christmas comes twice a year in South Dakota: once on December 25 and again on the third Saturday in October, the pheasant opener. Rooster Rush regulars know some of the best fields in the state are around Aberdeen, the pheasant hunting hub of northeastern South Dakota. Keep these tips in mind and your bird dog and trigger finger will both stay busy on your trip to the Ringneck State.
Pick Your Spots Wisely
What makes Aberdeen a premier pheasant hunting destination? Habitat and lots of it. Thanks to conservation groups like the Aberdeen Pheasant Coalition, you don’t need an experienced guide to find quality public land. East of Aberdeen is the James River Valley, 50 miles of corn and sorghum fields where pheasants flock. West to the Missouri River is a more arid landscape of open grasslands. When choosing a spot, look for water, shelterbelts, adjacent cropland, and thick cover. A rule of thumb is if you feel like you’re on a walk in a park, that place isn’t holding many birds.
Take Your Time
Walking a property is not a race! Many casual hunters assume more ground covered means more chances for birds, but you’re better off taking your time. Especially in heavy cover, wily roosters sit tight, almost waiting until you step on them to flush. A slight zig-zag pattern helps you comb the field without breezing right by your quarry in a hurry to reach the next water break.
Don’t Be Afraid of Old Man Winter
When the mercury drops and the snow starts blowing, novices case up their shotguns and call it a season. A crafty hunter knows the fun is just getting started. Have you ever pushed birds through a field to watch them flush again and again just out of range? During a South Dakota winter, the birds are less flighty and tend to stick to heavy cover. This means closer shots and shorter walks. Lower temps also keep your dog working harder longer (and maybe you as well).
No place caters to out-of-state hunters quite like South Dakota. In Aberdeen, you’ll find countless lodging options, from lavish private lodges to pet-friendly hotels and motels. Getting here is a breeze as well, thanks to easy access off of I-29 and airline service at Aberdeen Regional Airport. Take an in-depth look at area outfitters and hunting lodges, see public-access areas, and book your stay in the hunting hub of Northeast South Dakota.