Scott Rall: Why go hunting anywhere else but here?
When I go hunting in distant places, many of the people who read my stuff often ask me why I would do that. You spend more money for travel costs, gas, motel and eating out when you can stay home and hunt pheasants here for almost free. Their statements are correct.
The answer is not because the hunting is better elsewhere, although sometimes it is. It is because I get to experience my favorite pastime in different landscapes with different family and friends.
In almost all cases, when I hunt out of state, it is on public lands later in the late season.
For anyone who hunts at all, they would already know that later in the season you get less birds, and they also become jumpier.
This is so true. It is not to say that late-season hunts can’t be great. Sometimes they are. But for the most part, if you are hunting on public lands in a location you have never visited before, your total birds in the bag count is generally not very high. Add in the fact that the late season also correlates to less temperate weather and deeper snow. All reasons to hunt at home and still not good enough reasons to make me stay home.
My brother McChyne called me a month ago and we set up a hunt across eastern South Dakota. Day one was in the northeast corner hunting on his friend’s private land. Four guys hunted all day and bagged three birds. I never fired the gun.
Day 2 was three hours south into southeast South Dakota hunting solely on waterfowl production areas. These are public lands managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
We, Ken Reed and I walked eight miles in perfect weather conditions and never flushed even one bird. We had two hunters, five dogs, and ended with zero roosters.
Day 3 was a short distance west, and at the end of that day, four hunters had harvested their daily limit of 12 roosters.
All of this sounds pretty routine. Sounds much like a hunt I could have had at home. But this was by all means not the case.
The entire area of southeast South Dakota is under water. We used OnX maps and located a grouping of public lands and set out in that direction. It was road closed after road closed after yet another road closed sign. We drove 25 miles in order to get within a half mile of one of those public lands. If I had taken my Polaris Ranger equipped with tracks, we still could not have gotten to the majority of the spots we wanted to hunt on. Add to this the fact that I saw not even one harvested corn field made this one of the most difficult trips I have ever undertaken.
On the way home we took the back roads. The route ran past lots of other public land parcels. It was about a three-hour trip which I figured would take us about five and a half hours to complete.
I came through some town that was so small it did not have a population sign on the way in, and as we left, we crossed a railroad track that recently had work done on it and jammed a giant chunk of crushed granite into the left rear tire. We were flat in the rim in about a half-mile in the middle of nowhere on a Sunday. For some, this would have been a reason for despair.
I took out my tire fix-it tools and in about 90 minutes we were ready to continue. As we waited for my tiny 12-volt air compressor to pump up the tire, about 1,000 snow geese started circling and landing about a half-mile away.
Over the next hour we figured 5,000-10,000 snow geese had dropped out of the sky and treated us with a waterfowl spectacle the likes of which I had never seen. The horizon was white with geese. Even the cows had to come over to check us out.
This breakdown and the experience that followed was one that would never have happened in the Rock/Nobles County area. The snow goose flyway no longer travels through this area.
The hunting was only fair, but the great time we had will always be remembered. I have no desire to go to Argentina to hunt doves or anything like that. But I certainly don’t mind wandering around the upper Midwest in search of the next new adventure.
Breakdowns and all, it was still a fantastic time.