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Hunting Late Season Pheasants

By Ryan Trask - Ultimate Pheasant Hunting


Hunting late season pheasants in South Dakota can be a humbling experience.

The Story

It was late December into the pheasant hunting season in West River, South Dakota. Our group consisted of 1 dog and 4 hunters. We had hunted some private land in the morning, in the afternoon we decided to hit some public land because of the large amounts of roosters the land owner had seen on the public ground.

The land was about a 500 yards long and had 6 tree lines that separated each section of long grass. When we pulled up the truck, I was amazed at the large amounts of pheasants for public land.

There was snow on the ground and there were pheasant tracks everywhere. As we walked the first tree line of 6, we looked up ahead and saw about 400-500 hens and roosters along the tree line. It was unreal! They would walk right with us up ahead and as soon as we would get close to the end of the tree line, they would fly to the next tree line. We would repeat the process. Mind you, no shots have been fired and we had walked 4 tree lines!

I was sick of it already. Not sick of it because of the hunt, but because the birds were just too smart. 1 hour and nothing, not even a shot!

Hunting Patterns

Well I figured it's public land and they are smart old birds that have been shot at all season and only the strong survive right? All season hunters walked the tree line the same way, with no variation in their walking or hunting patterns. The birds were perfectly accustomed to hunter patterns and knew the perfect point to flush. I could just hear the birds laughing at us as they flew from tree line to tree line.

I finally said, that's it, this group is going to get a shot at a rooster somehow. Time to try something new that the birds haven't witnessed before. We only had 4 hunters, so how in the heck are we going to cover 500 yards and 6 tree lines?

The Plan

The birds are sitting on the 5th tree line at this point, since we had already worked the first 4.

  • 1st Hunter: Walk the 5th tree line with his dog like usual (where all the birds were now sitting).
  • 2nd Hunter: The guy with the truck to loop around the public area and hop the fence to block (his land butts up against the public land).
  • 3rd Hunter: Walk the 4th tree line and converge in to the 5th tree line.
  • 4th Hunter: Myself, walk the 6th tree line and converge to the 5th.


We were off and running with our new plan and the birds were bit more jumpy up ahead. In fact, they started to dip in and out of the tree line, which they had not done previously. Interesting.

A few hit the dead zone (the area between the flankers and the blocker) and were flying both left and right towards the 4th and 6th tree line. That hasn't happened before yet either.

As we approached half way (250 yards), the birds were getting more nervous from their movement patterns. They were running in and out of the trees and now they were even flying down the tree line and landing about a hundred yards down and only about 150 yards from our blocker.

I was getting more confused on where the birds were going to move next. All of a sudden, birds started frantically running and flushing my way towards the 6th tree line. 20, then 30, then another 20... so I grabbed my gun in started to run up that direction to cut them off. Sure as heck, the birds did a 180 and headed back to the tree line and of course, they start flushing the other direction. At this point, we were starting to converge on the blocker and more and more birds were piling out in the other direction (the wind was going that way), so I ran way over to the 4th tree line (the other side).

I was out of breath at this point, but I was wide enough so I didn't spook the birds and could get some good high shots.

Hunter 1 and 3 finished up walking the tree line and the birds were really starting to pile out of the tree line now. 4 shots and 2 roosters down at this point. I was way out on the flank position out of breath and I had about 10 birds coming my direction with the wind. I winged one and he hit the ground running. I missed a few more and finally ended up with one.


It sure wasn't a fine display of shooting, but I considered it a moral victory for us against the pheasants.

Pheasant hunting late season birds isn't really orthodox. Try something new and outside the box and see what your results are.

The land owner was impressed with my running. I told him I needed the oxygen tank after that hunt.

Looking for a great place to hunt South Dakota pheasants in December or January this year?

Try Platte Creek Lodge for a great late season pheasant hunt. They offer discounted late season packages and are well known as one of the top pheasant hunting lodges in South Dakota.