Hunting Trips

Good potholes: a hunting trip for the ages

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 Crisp, fall air blanketed northeastern South Dakota as my Ford truck rambled down a nearly deserted highway toward a little piece of hunting paradise. I rolled down my window to get a better view and take in the cool, fresh air that could only mean one thing: It’s waterfowl and upland bird hunting time.

I passed through one of the several small towns located in the region until I arrived in Veblen, S.D. I love small town America. Veblen totes a population near 300 and has your ordinary one stop through its city limits. After double checking my map, I turned down a gravel road and made one of my final maneuvers toward Prairie Sky Ranch. I was about as excited as a hunting dog loading up for another weekend trip to the duck blind. It was tough to stay bottled up in the truck as I passed slews (known as potholes here) loaded with waterfowl.
This was going to be a great trip.

After four hours on the road from my Minneapolis home, I had finally arrived at Prairie Sky Ranch. Thanks to a partnership formed by Polaris, Browning, Mossy Oak and Winchester, I was about to have the hunt of a lifetime.

OUR RIDES

Polaris said we’d be venturing to the pheasant hunting grounds aboard Sportman 500 Browning Edition ATVs and Ranger XP Browning Edition side-by-sides. Making our way down the gravel roads was made easy with a detachable GPS unit and gun scabbards.

While it was a bit on the chilly side with the 20-degree air cutting through my Mossy Oak coat during the ride, the ATVs were appreciated. We crossed through damp fields without hesitation. And, when the pheasant hunt was over, we simply loaded our birds into the back of the Ranger and toted them back to the ranch for cleaning.

Our hunting group brought a fully enclosed Polaris Ranger Browning to the morning duck hunt. The enclosed cab was developed by Polaris, and we were glad the Minnesota company included the enclosure on this trip. We weren’t ready for freezing temps in late October, but the cab made it easier to venture into the cold early-morning air. We rode the machine out to the pothole our guide scouted a day earlier and brought decoys in to the muddy field with ease. After parking the Ranger out of sight, made easier thanks to the camo, we busted back to our cover and waited for shooting time.

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKED, FOR SOME

If you ever have a chance to hunt South Dakota’s northeast pothole region, I suggest making the trip. You won’t regret it. I nestled into my cover surrounding the pothole with the Browning Gold shotgun at my side and awaited my first opportunity at a mallard, gadwall or teal, all of which were still in the region.

With overcast skies, hunting time approached and we heard the sounds of shotguns to our east. Our hunting camp was divided into four groups, so we knew one group had already found some success. We looked at our watches and realized it was shooting time. With a limit of one hen per hunter, the overcast skies made it tough to spot the greenheads. We had to wait to squeeze the trigger until we were sure it was a drake.

Our guide, Paul Majors of Scottsboro, Ala., spotted a greenhead flying into our cover and instructed us to “Kill that duck!” After two quick shots we had our first bird of the hunt. Major’s chesapeake, May, scrambled into the icy water and retrieved our first kill.

After 30 minutes passed, and plenty of shots from our east rang out, we waited for another duck to fly into our decoys. A hen came into our setup and was promptly downed by our crew. Unfortunately, that was our limit of success for day one. Just a few hundred yards away in the corn stalks, two groups filled their tags from our camp. That’s hunting! Our cover was filled with duck feathers from the day before, but the ducks weren’t interested in landing in the icing potholes yet on this day.

Our second day was more successful, however. Guide Shane Rein, of Veblen, put us on a few more birds. The ducks were timid but several did make their way toward our cover. Rein’s black lab, Ashley, retrieved our first kill, a teal, and we kept her busy for the next hour. With a cold dog and hungry hunters, we retired to the lodge for a bite to eat and a quick nap.

The pheasant hunting, as expected, provided plenty of excitement. Both days, the sky cleared up by 1 p.m. and the bright sunlight kept us warm. Since we were hunting in large 10-person groups, birds were placed like at a game farm. We managed to scavenge some wild birds, though, and left both days with a full bounty.

Thanks to Polaris ATVs, Browning, Winchester and Mossy Oak, our hunt was as fun as it was successful. And, Prairie Sky Ranch pampered us like royalty. Who could ask for much more?

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