January 31, 2021
Sitting in the enclosed cab warmth of your Can-Am Defender Max, it’s hard not to smile as you take another sip of hot brew, scratch the dog’s head in the seat next to you, and listen to the wind.
You smile because the warm, hazy days of early season are but a distant memory now, gentlemanly apparitions of upland bird hunting trips with friends, outings that seem so faint at the moment that they might as well have happened a lifetime ago.
But now, there is nothing but solitude, late-season challenge, and a stubborn hunter’s heart as you and Fido exit the Can-Am Defender Max. Today, as leaden skies threaten more snow, you’re headed for the Back 40, for a secluded creek bottom that is overgrown, wild, and wooly, and a spot where late-season dreams might come true with one final rooster vaulting into the wintertime sky.
And with that, you and your dog turn, head into the wind, and hope against hope for the kind of success that only a few will understand, a final hours limit that others know nothing about as they watch football at home in front of the fireplace.
Understand Late-Season Pheasants
If your quest for a limit of end-of-season roosters is to be successful, it will all start with a proper understanding of the differences between early-season and late-season birds.
In the early days of the season — especially in a year when the hatches have been good, the crops are being harvested at the right time, and CRP grass stretches for miles—the hunting is easy and fun. Find the food, turn the dogs loose, set up a drive, and have plenty of shells handy for hunts that are fast and wide-open.
But by the final days of the season, a time of year when mud and snow make you opt for the Can-Am over your pickup truck, everything is polar opposite now as the upland bird hunting world lies cold, still, and blanketed with snow.
To find late-season roosters in these conditions, you’ll want to be in the neighborhood of picked crop fields since there is little else for the birds to feed on as winter controls the landscape. But on a raw, overcast, and blustery day like today, you’ll also want to be near thermal cover where roosters are sitting tight and letting their body fat reserves work for them as temperatures drop and a few snowflakes begin to fly.
In essence, you’re searching for the kind of places that author Steve Grooms referenced in his upland bird hunting tome, Pheasant Hunter’s Harvest: “You do not lure a rooster onto your ground to hunt him. You go to his ground, and his ground is normally some paradigm of chaos constructed from equal parts of water, muck, and man-eating weeds.”
In other words, you’ll find late-season roosters in the kind of gnarly places where the oldest wise-guy pheasants live, tough spots that are perfect for a hard-working bird hunter and a Can-Am Defender Max to drive into.
Employ the Right Techniques
Make no mistake, the early season October pheasant hunts at rooster filled Nirvanas like those found across South Dakota can bring some lively hunts and plenty of smiles for hunters enjoying a pheasant resource that seems as limitless as the Mount Rushmore State’s spacious skies.
But for hunts happening at Christmas time and beyond, late-season pheasant trips will be more intimate affairs in lonely places where wily old roosters demand a slow and methodical approach as a hunter and bird dog work their way through thick cover.
You’ll also need to be as quiet as can be when actually hunting, pushing through likely cover as thoroughly and patiently as you can. In short, it’s the type of hunting tailor-made for a Can-Am Defender Max, a rig that you’ll learn to steadily rely on instead of putting your truck into axle-busting spots filled with drifted snow, flowing water, or bottomless mud.
While any Can-Am is a tremendous bird hunting machine to have at your disposal, one lucky hunter will have a chance this year to take home the world’s ultimate upland game vehicle, a fully tricked out Can-Am Defender Max Limited rig. That rig is a special one-off custom build put together by Can-Am, R&R Pheasant Hunting, and Warnert Racing, a vehicle that is being raffled off this year.
Featuring an amazing array of accessories and customized features, this unique, one-of-a-kind Can-Am is designed to help raise funds that will ensure a better tomorrow for pheasant hunting. Raffle tickets are being sold through the South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks website for $25 each during the season as well as at a few other events throughout the year if the coronavirus response allows for those events to take place.
If you’re interested in raffle tickets for this special Can-Am upland hunting vehicle, then be on the lookout for the giveaway details once the 2021 season comes along. Once posted, you’ll find these details on the SDFG&P website and South Dakota Second Century Habitat Fund website.
Keep the Right Gear Handy
When it comes to late-season gear, you’ll want to start with your Can-Am Defender Max, a rig that helps save mileage on your truck, muddy wear and tear on your vehicle’s carpet and seats, and a UTV that can get you into tight and tough to access spots that you wouldn’t dream of driving a pickup truck into. These Can-Am rigs will also help you access spots that are hard to reach at public hunting walk-in areas, the kinds of places that most other hunters simply aren’t interested in hiking to.
Next, consider the upland hunting clothes that you’ll wear into the field. Obviously, words like merino wool, fleece, Thinsulate, and Gore-Tex will dominate here as such natural and man-made fabrics are the cornerstones of keeping cold temperatures, moisture, and chilling wind at bay.
You’ll also want a familiar shotgun, one that you shoot well no matter what the stage of the season. Whether you’re toting a classic American side-by-side double gun or a new space age semi-auto, keep your scattergun, shotshell, and choke selection the same as you used earlier in the season since consistency and shooting form help put more birds into your game vest.
With some good shooting and a little late season hunting luck, by day’s end, you and your bird dog will be walking back to your Can-Am Defender Max with weary and happy smiles.
But even as snow begins to fall heavily and daylight bleeds from the western horizon, you’ll be secure in the knowledge that the Can-Am Defender Max and its powerful 82-hp Rotax 976cc engine and 4,500-lb. winch will be more than enough to get you out of the slipperiest predicament and safely down the snow-covered trail that leads towards home.
As you drive back towards your home’s warmth and security and a hot meal simmering on the stove, a hard day of pushing through thick, snowy cover will bring its own internal reward not to mention a few birds destined for the dinner table. And you’ll be content in the knowledge that you’ve seen one pheasant season through to the end and are now counting the days until the next wingshooting campaign begins next fall.
Because for a true wingshooter, it’s always pheasant season, in the heart at least.