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South Dakota Ringnecks

South Dakota Ringnecks

If you've always dreamed of hunting pheasants in the Mt. Rushmore State, there's probably an outfitter to fit your budget.

Lots of pheasants found in natural habitat are among the reasons often given to hunt ringneck roosters on a commercial pheasant hunting farm in South Dakota or any other state in the pheasant country of the Upper Midwest.

For those who want to hunt pheasants in South Dakota but don't care to fight the crowds on public land or don't have the connections for free access to private property, there are plenty of fee hunting farms operated by commercial outfitters who specialize in ringnecks. There are, in fact, over 200 registered hunting preserves in the state and probably more than a thousand non-preserve hunting businesses. All these outfitters offer a variety of hunting opportunities and accommodations at prices that start at an economical $150 per gun per day to over $3,000 for a three-day stay at a luxury facility.

Reasons To Hunt Pheasants With Outfitters On Commercial Operation
1. "We've got pheasants!" is the way one pheasant farm operator explained the reason for the surge in business in recent years. "Sure, there are birds on public land, but there is lots of competition for them early in the season and later the remaining roosters are sometimes too hard to get," he added. "On most commercial hunting property, there is good habitat designed to hold pheasants in places that almost everyone can walk, no matter what their age or physical condition."

2. Harvest success can be better when hunting with an outfitter whose job is to be sure everyone gets a good chance to shoot at many birds each day. Anyone new to hunting and many older hunters may need several chances to actually kill a limit of three roosters.

"A pheasant hunt at our place, however, isn't easy because you still have to shoot straight and walk a ways. But hunting here means the odds on getting a limit are better than working hard all day in other places to maybe see only a few birds but not kill many," says one outfitter.

3. BYOD, or "bring your own dog" to a commercial pheasant hunting farm with the expectation of major exposure to ringneck roosters. "Meg, my old Labrador, saw more pheasants here in five days than she's seen in six years back home," a visiting pheasant hunter from Ohio said last year after a trip to a pheasant farm in central South Dakota. "I just wish I had gotten Meg in better shape before we got here because she was totally pooped out by the end of our trip," he added as advice to other hunters getting their dogs ready for a similar experience.

4. "This is a full service facility," one pheasant hunter said to describe the way his trip had been organized by his outfitter, who had provided a place to hunt, to sleep and to eat. And some of the most upscale hunting lodges will provide single rooms with private bathrooms and gourmet meals prepared by master chefs and served by waiters with a wine list. In addition, transportation was available from the airport to the farm and from the farm to the surrounding fields.

Some pheasant hunting operations will, likewise, include cleaning, packaging, freezing and boxing up of all the birds harvested for the trip back home. Other commercial hunting farms, however, will offer access to pheasants on the property and leave arrangements for room, board, transportation, and bird cleaning up to the client. There are plenty of full service and partial service pheasant hunting facilities in South Dakota.

BYOD (Bring Your Own Dog) to South Dakota to hunt pheasants on commercial hunting farms where there will be plenty of exposure to birds and lots of opportunities to hunt them in a variety of habitat and conditions.

5. "This is a 'low service' down-home, mom-and-pop business," the pheasant farm owner said to distinguish his pheasant hunting business from the upscale and complete service hunting lodge a few miles down the road. "Oh, we take care of our customers by giving them a fixed-up old farmhouse to stay in. Though there's no bar, swimming pool, or sauna at our place, there are four single beds per room and one bathroom at the end of the hallway with a shower everyone gets to share.

"The food is country style with bacon, eggs, and homemade rolls for breakfast and a big supper of chicken, roast beef, or pork chops, green beans, salad, and mashed potatoes, and three homemade pies for dessert. The plates and silverware don't match and the tablecloth is 50-year-old linen. You might set at a table with some strangers from another state, but by the end of the meal everyone has become friends and all are having a good time," the hunt host added. And, as with most pheasant farms in South Dakota there are plenty of pheasants at this place.

How To Find An Outfitter To Matc

Though there may be thousands of places to go for a memorable pheasant hunt, finding them will take some effort, beginning with a look at the "Hunting Destinations" ads in this publication. In addition, you should also do a Google search under the "pheasant hunting" heading for specific regions, states, or counties with particular emphasis on reduced rates or special times of the season.While on the internet, punch up "confederations of commercial hunting operations" to see what states have "Sport Hunting Organizations" or similar associations of commercial hunting businesses. Another internet resource can be found by going to "Chambers Of Commerce" in towns and cities in prime pheasant hunting country. Any of these sites can have names, phone numbers, websites, and other information on a wide range of hunting opportunities with various accommodations, amenities, and prices.The game departments in most states may also have references to "fee" hunting operations as well as guides to public lands open to "free" hunting opportunities. The state run game departments will also have updates on pheasant populations which is vital information for plan

ning a trip anywhere.Black's Wing and Clay is an annual publication that has the most complete listing of commercial gamebird hunting operations in the United States on a state-by-state basis. Included for each entry are names, phone numbers, addresses, descriptions of the hunting habitat, a list of gamebirds available, and other relevant particulars about each place listed. Though prices are not included, a phone call will provide that information.


6. You can find bargains when searching for a place to go during the late season. Many pheasant hunting outfitters in South Dakota are loaded with customers from the third weekend in October (the traditional opening date for the pheasant season) to the third weekend or so in November (when harsh upper Midwestern weather can produce heavy snow, big winds, and sometimes blizzards that scare away non-resident hunters). Consequently, December can be a good time for an outfitter to book hunts at reduced rates in order to keep their business busy.

Licensed hunting preserves in South Dakota are open from September 1 to the end of March. Much more accurate modern computerized weather prediction makes planning hunts much easier up to several weeks in advance to avoid bad weather.

7. You can "customize your hunt" according to your own personal requirements when going to a commercial hunting farm in South Dakota. Many outfitters prefer larger groups of six or more people as the best way to more efficiently hunt large tracts of habitat such as big fields of CRP prairie grass, huge dry cattail sloughs, or mile-long, 100-yard-wide tree belts. But most outfitters will also take smaller numbers of hunters who may want to hunt alone as a separate party. And a majority of outfitters are willing to accommodate any special needs of kids, women, or anyone who may be new to hunting as well as older experienced hunters still able to shoot but doing better as blockers at the end of drives.

8. Hunting with an outfitter on a preserve better prepares you for hunting on other kinds of private property or on public land. Many pheasant hunters who come to South Dakota will spend a day or two at a commercial hunting farm to prepare themselves and their gun dogs for time later spent in other places.

"For the last five years, we have come to South Dakota two days before the state season opens to hunt those two days on a preserve," a hunter from Michigan says. "We do this as a way to practice our shooting, to get in better shape by walking, and to tune up our dogs on pheasants. Then we hunt for five days on some other private land and public property."

9. "Lots of roosters --some harder to hunt than others," was one pheasant farm owner's explanation for the combination of pen-raised-and-released ringnecks and born-in-the-wild birds on his property. "Like most commercial hunting operations in South Dakota, we do have pen-raised roosters to supplement the natural pheasant population here because there is a demand by our customers to see an abundance of game.

Most pheasant hunting farms in South Dakota cultivate big tracts of habitat to support large ringneck populations.

"Some of our clients at first insist on wild birds only but in nearly every case they can't tell the raised roosters from the wild ones. And pretty soon they don't care because all the birds fly the same and give them the hunting fun they are after," this outfitter points out.

"I'm 68 years old and I've worked hard enough and lived long enough so that I want to have good hunting when I go on a trip to South Dakota for pheasants. And I'm willing to pay some extra dollars for a quality experience that includes lots of good flying birds, a good place to sleep, good food to eat, and a good chance to walk the fields with fun people." Those are the reasons Ron Willet, a retired hardware store owner from Miami, Florida, keeps returning to South Dakota.

When Willet first came to South Dakota 30 years ago, he hunted pheasants mostly for free on public land and private property. "The roosters were usually plentiful but tough to get, sometimes taking a whole day of hard hunting to shoot a limit for three or four guys," he remembers. "But we were young, strong, and eager then, with hard-charging Labradors, German shorthairs, and springer spaniels that could go pretty well for three or four days."

Consistency is one of the main attractions at most commercial pheasant hunting businesses in South Dakota. A consistent number of pheasants is one factor that makes these places popular and successful. "We cultivate our farm for pheasants and grow the birds as a crop just like corn, soybeans, wheat, or sorghum," one pheasant hunting farm owner says. "And we provide nesting cover, roosting and resting areas, and fields with wild prairie grasses and wind breaking tree belts for protection during winter blizzards. So, even in the worst weather conditions, we will consistently have pheasants for hunting."

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