Our Game, Fish, and Parks Department here in South Dakota has been saying that pheasant counts for the state were up 40% over last year for a couple of months now. What that report didn't really publicize was that most counts showed the east river side of the state had large numbers, while west river numbers were way down compared to last year at the same time, around 50% less near my hometown in Lemmon.
The birds were hard to find last season, but I had high hopes that with my uncle and his friend coming from Idaho for the weekend hunt, that we'd still find some birds to shoot at. The weekend was a warm one, with daily temperatures hitting into the low 60s both days, which made for pleasant walking for the many miles we put on walking through fields. No one informed the birds though that the nice weather should've made them show up better.
On the first day, the three of us, along with my grandpa, hunted on private land that we'd been hunting on for years and normally, we can spend the entire day there and kick up scores of birds on opening day. Unfortunately, the land owner hadn't planted much for corn as in past years and his cattle had stamped down most of the places with good cover. The only cornfield we walked yielded one rooster, which I downed and gave me some hope for the rest of the day. Turned out we would only see one more rooster all day and it evaded being shot down from my uncle's friend. A very disappointing first day of the season for sure.
The next day, my brother and two friends of his joined us with their two dogs and we hunted in open fields and tree rows for the day. We did manage to get a few more roosters, but the numbers were not there. While the hunt itself was disappointing, I was still impressed with the company for the weekend and how we tried to help each other out and, without nearly any verbal cues, we maintained safety with our lines of sight clear and kept our "pushing" lines spread out and even to avoid any accidents.
It is important when hunting in groups to put safety first and let each person know or watch for the lines to stay almost even so that areas of coverage are watched and make sure that we are not taking aim at one of the group by accident. While I wished the weekend had been a better success, we still had a good time, got lots of exercise, and enjoyed some camaraderie in the field. Hopefully the next hunt will be more successful bird-wise.