A typical South Dakota weather change makes our final day warmer, but still carrying a strong wind. With rain in the forecast, farmers will push to harvest beans and corn.
We hunt a new CRP field that is mostly dry, except for one long slue. Field boots are a welcomed relief to heavy knee boots, and we are back to three layers of clothing. Ranger has earned the morning off and we begin hunting with a chocolate lab named Daisy.
We form a horseshoe to contain Daisy and move out. Daisy relentlessly crashes the brush and flushes some nice birds as we approach a crest in the field. The birds get airborne in the strong wind and quickly gain speed.
We cross over the crest of the field with two birds and head towards the slue. Six nice birds flush, go straight up then quickly turn into the wind. Two quick shots but no rooster drops. Another step forward sends a rooster moving quickly across our formation and it falls with one boom.
Then a flush of about twenty birds erupts and the air is filled with lead and smoke as birds scatter. We drop four but locate only three. We decide to bring Ranger back in the afternoon to see if he can find the lost bird.
We pick up Ranger and drive to the far corner to hunt the birds we flushed earlier. We have five birds and the weather and field conditions are finally working in our favor.
Ranger begins his rhythmic swings in front of us. He picks up the earlier birds and we get some great shots. We reach the slue with four more roosters and turn the corner to see if we can find the lost bird.
Ranger locks on point twice but we find no bird. On the third point, he sticks his head deep into the grass and pulls out the cripple hit two hours earlier. While we celebrate, Ranger takes off as if to say we can talk, but he came to hunt.
With ten birds in the bag, we walk back to the truck at a brisker pace. Ranger follows long scent trails, and it does not take long to fill our limit. The ride back to town is full of celebration as all four of us talk at once, reliving each flush and shot.
Each pheasant season in South Dakota is unique. The deciding factor for success is the quality of friendship among men who share a love for the outdoors, and dogs with a level of passion for hunting that humans will never understand.
I am blessed with treasured friendships and hunt behind dogs that are exceptional. We add to our vault of memories and will meet again, next year in South Dakota.