by Erica Hill
- South Dakota public lands
- Waterproof boots
- A few warm layers
- Your favorite bird dog
- A trusty shotgun and a box (or two) of Federal Ammunition's Prairie Storm
- Chocolate chip cookies for field fuel
- And your best gal pals by your side
These are just a few ingredients to make an incredibly fun and memorable weekend out in the field with your best friends.
I’ve had the pleasure of calling South Dakota my home for three years now. When I first laid eyes on the breathtaking landscape—golden uplands and potholes for miles—I knew it was going to be just the place to fuel the adventurer, nature nerd, and growing hunter inside me. I’ve never felt more at home or in my element than when walking these fields, watching the sun rise, and feeling the rush of a pheasant flush at my feet. The experience can only be made better with some of your best friends by your side.
For me, it is a group of ladies who are just as in love with wild places, public spaces, staunch points, epic flushes, bird dog snuggles, and all of the snacks and wild game. These unicorns go by Emy, Renee, and Cayla.
While I love enjoying the comfortable temperatures, camaraderie, and homemade community breakfasts that the opener in South Dakota has to offer… there is something really special about late season hunting. Waging war on thick cattails, waist-high snowdrifts, and wiley roosters. This year, due to the extended season, we also were able to take advantage of another South Dakota winter treasure: ice fishing. Emy even brought her first two walleye through the ice!
With a trip such as this, there are too many memories to pack into one blog but some I can play back in my head like a video. One in particular will stick with me forever. On our second day of hunting, and with a bird in the bag from our golden hour hunt the evening before, we set out to a new piece of South Dakota CREP land. We fought through snowdrifts twice the height of the dogs to make it to some hardy winter cover that we knew would surely harbor pheasants that were wise beyond their years at this point in the season. It’s a miracle our laughing, grunting, and downright struggles didn’t spook the birds before we made it to them. About 150 yards into our walk through the cover, Cayla’s pudelpointer, Finley, locked up on point. The bird flushed in an instant, Cayla pulled up, and her shot rang true. I was filled with excitement and pride for Cayla – a feeling I think a lot of us feel in this moment for the people we are hunting with. What came next reminded me exactly why we fight through these cattails, put on the boot miles, and all work toward bolstering habitat and hunter numbers daily. I looked over to see Cayla smiling ear to ear with a single tear rolling down her cheek. The raw emotion and the connection that we feel to hunting and the places we get to do it in, is undeniable, and there is nothing cooler than sharing it with people that understand that too.
This weekend was filled with a million of these moments. Moments where you can just be yourself, share your passions, eat too much, and know you are at home with the people around you. My smile has never been so big, my heart so full, and my stomach hurting from so much laughter.
This is my crew and this is one of our many adventures. Women on the Wing can help you find yours too!
Erica Hill is Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever Corporate Partnerships & Product Development Coordinator.
For more information on Pheasants Forever's Women on the Wing initiative, visit: pheasantsforever/wotw.
To plan your own late season pheasant hunt to South Dakota, visit: HuntInSD.