Rooster Road Trip 2016 - Upland Nation, an annual digital showcase of upland hunting on public land habitat & access projects, takes to the field October 24th – 28th and November 14th – 18th. This is the third report from this year’s tour.
On paper, the Aberdeen region of the 2016 Rooster Road Trip looked like the toughest stop. The 2016 Pheasant Brood Survey results indicated a 43 percent drop in pheasants-per-mile counted on August routes. Thankfully, our pheasant hunt didn’t happen on paper.
Pheasants Forever’s Emmett Lennihan, the organization’s local Farm Bill wildlife biologist, painted better prospects of the region’s bird numbers, and also pointed out a few likely hunting spot candidates on our public atlas. With a 90 percent chance of rain, we headed out hoping to get in as much ground time as possible before the skies opened up.
A light drizzle greeted us at our first spot, a Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) Walk-In Hunting Area near Groton, South Dakota. While most pheasant hunters could do without rain, the dusting did help soften the dry cover and seemed to improve scenting conditions for our bird dogs.
In less than 3 hours of hunting, we flushed 17 pheasants in range, dropping five of the roosters. This isn’t counting a fair number of birds that flushed out wild to be chased another day. Every hunter in our group was able to squeeze the trigger and knock down a bird, and there seemed to be a birdy dog at almost every moment of the hunt. One final hen took flight as we approached our trucks, a pretty flush across our line right before the heavier rains came, canceling the reminder of our day afield.
Long known as a pheasant hotspot, Pheasants Forever, landowners and even local businesses are intent on keeping Aberdeen as a top pheasant producing spot and a pheasant destination for hunters. The newly-formed Aberdeen Pheasant Coalition is a group of local businesses and organizations that have worked to raise $100,000 to be used to provide a sign up incentive for farmers and landowners enrolling land into the CRP program as well as into the South Dakota Game, Fish and Park's public Walk-In Hunting access program. Spearheaded by the Northern South Dakota Chapter of Pheasants Forever, nearly 700 acres are already enrolled in the program, with an ultimate goal of 4,000 acres.
Green colored Aberdeen Pheasant Coalition signs are starting to be posted in the Aberdeen area, but most of the sites are undergoing habitat management, so expect it to be at least next year before these areas start producing birds. These acres will certainly help the pheasant count in years to come.
-Anthony Hauck, Rooster Road Trip 2016
Up Next: East River Pheasant Country
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Photo credits: Main image, Josh Preissner; first image, Logan Hinners