Finish Strong: Tips for Bagging Late-Season Birds

44fff9a0-0cf7-4cfb-929a-fd4ab9b21694 As fall turns to winter, South Dakota hunters have one thing on their minds – how to get the most out of the last few weekends of pheasant season. 
If properly prepared, late season pheasant hunting can be every bit as successful as the opening weekend. We talked to Mark Haugan, a guide at Broken Arrow Farms in Pierre, South Dakota, about how committed hunters can keep bagging birds while everyone else is staying inside.
To start things off, he stressed that your strategy should be completely different from opening weekend. Since most fields have been hunted a few times, the birds are more on edge – you won’t find it as easy to get close. Make sure you choose the right tools for the job, too. “Your equipment will change. You’ll shoot a heavier load and shots are usually further out,” Mark told us. Rather than walking the fields as you would on opening day, surrounding the areas where birds are likely to be taking cover can help prevent them from flushing out of range.
Heading out right after a snowfall can also provide hunters with a big advantage. According to Mark, “after a fresh snow, birds tend to sit tight. It’s a real good opportunity to walk through a field and get them in flushes.” When it’s colder, look for birds in sloughs, cattails and tree groves – find a food source and you might just hit the jackpot.
When you do find the pheasants, your approach should be different than it is early in the season. “You have to be stealthier than you do on opening day,” Mark explained. Walk in where the wind will blow your sound away from the birds, and keep quiet – stay in small groups, and plan your hunt back in the truck instead of outside.
Lastly, we asked Mark why central South Dakota makes for a great hunting trip. In his opinion, a number of factors add up to the perfect experience. “The Pierre area and Central South Dakota as a whole have better pheasant numbers year-over-year. With lots of public ground, lots of habitat for birds, and numerous commercial hunting operations, bird numbers stay up and many guides in the area know where to find them.” He also praised Pierre’s atmosphere, amenities and history.
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