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Pheasant Hunt #13572676 02/17/19
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Theeck Offline OP
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I am starting to put plans together for my hunting next year. I live in Pennsylvania but I like to take a couple hunting trips out of state to experience other kinds of hunting. PA pheasant hunting today is exclusively for stocked birds. It is good for dog training but I want to go somewhere in late December to try at the real thing. If there is the possibility of a mixed bag of quail or partridge, even better. I intend to camp. I know South Dakota is supposed to be the place to go.


I would be somewhat concerned about the temperature there after Christmas but I am not ruling it out. I will be driving and bringing my springer - a 9 month old noob. I will be working with her a lot in the summer and fall. I am not interested in an outfitter, a preseve or released birds. seeing birds is my priority over actually killing a bunch. I will be hunting public access areas. Anybody have a suggestion on which state to try? Anybody have experience with mid-west pheasants?

I grew up seeing wild pheasants when we still had them in PA. I never got to hunt them but I would love to experience chasing wild birds. Thanks for any tips. PMs welcome.

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Re: Pheasant Hunt [Re: Theeck] #13573146 02/17/19
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woodmaster81 Offline
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Good luck on the camping. If you are an experienced winter camper (northern or high elevations, not Florida type) you would know what you are getting into and have the equipment and knowledge but it does sound like you are. Besides the temperatures, often below zero, you will also have to contend with the wind. 20 mph is not uncommon and higher does occur more often than wanted. That can make staking down a tent pretty difficult as the ground will be frozen. And likely under several inches of snow at a minimum.

Other concerns will be where to camp. Most campgrounds will be closed by the end of October leaving one with no water or restroom facilities. Some may be left open for "primitively" camping where you can enter but that will be it. Unless you are able to heat an area, you will have difficulties keeping things like water thawed out.

If you insist on camping, I would rule out the Dakotas, Montana, and Nebraska. Kansas, particularly the southern part, and Oklahoma would be my suggestions though it will still be pretty tough. It does get cold down there but typically not the extended deep cold of the northern states. I would also strongly suggest hunting the early season, generally first two to maybe four, weeks as the weather is usually not as severe and there may be places to camp still open. There will still be the wind but one might still be able to get good, tough spikes into the ground to hold down a tent.

The hunting can be good in the late season but it will be tough all the way around. I would strongly recommend staying in a motel for the simple reason of comfort. One will get pretty cold chasing large season birds and having a warm place to recover goes a long ways toward making the trip enjoyable. It also gives one a place to dry clothes which is a certainty when chasing birds.

Re: Pheasant Hunt [Re: Theeck] #13573211 02/17/19
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Theeck Offline OP
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Thanks woodmaster. I do have experience camping in the winter but you make a good point about the wind. I camped in Kansas in September once and the wind was intense. I was just using a bivi sack so I didn’t have to deal with stakes. Below freezing, that would have been uncomfortable. I have a couple wall tents with wood stoves but they are big and flat sided and would catch a lot of wind. I think you convinced me to use motels. It would also give me more flexibility since once I set up a wall tent, I don’t like to take it down until I’m done. I guess I could splurge on a 4 season (wind resistant) tent but I don’t think I would use it enough to get enough value out of it. I have a Snowtrekker tent that I use snow camping in the Northeast.

I’ll have to find a pet friendly motel. I guess they exist out there.

I would love to hunt the early season but my schedule will not allow it. As a result, staying farther south might make things more comfortable. Iowa would be the shortest drive. Southern Kansas is a good suggestion. Other than occassional stocked pheasant, I mostly hunt ruffed grouse. Pheasant and quail are a mystery to me. Any idea if public lands in Kansas or Iowa would produce action? I should focus on grasslands, right?

Thanks for the help!

Re: Pheasant Hunt [Re: woodmaster81] #13573332 02/17/19
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Originally Posted by woodmaster81
Good luck on the camping. If you are an experienced winter camper (northern or high elevations, not Florida type) you would know what you are getting into and have the equipment and knowledge but it does sound like you are. Besides the temperatures, often below zero, you will also have to contend with the wind. 20 mph is not uncommon and higher does occur more often than wanted. That can make staking down a tent pretty difficult as the ground will be frozen. And likely under several inches of snow at a minimum.

Other concerns will be where to camp. Most campgrounds will be closed by the end of October leaving one with no water or restroom facilities. Some may be left open for "primitively" camping where you can enter but that will be it. Unless you are able to heat an area, you will have difficulties keeping things like water thawed out.

If you insist on camping, I would rule out the Dakotas, Montana, and Nebraska. Kansas, particularly the southern part, and Oklahoma would be my suggestions though it will still be pretty tough. It does get cold down there but typically not the extended deep cold of the northern states. I would also strongly suggest hunting the early season, generally first two to maybe four, weeks as the weather is usually not as severe and there may be places to camp still open. There will still be the wind but one might still be able to get good, tough spikes into the ground to hold down a tent.

The hunting can be good in the late season but it will be tough all the way around. I would strongly recommend staying in a motel for the simple reason of comfort. One will get pretty cold chasing large season birds and having a warm place to recover goes a long ways toward making the trip enjoyable. It also gives one a place to dry clothes which is a certainty when chasing birds.

Great advice there.

Re: Pheasant Hunt [Re: Theeck] #13573403 02/17/19
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they are almost all pet friendly out there... don't wait too late... go mid Nov if you can...


"If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die, I want to go where they went"
Will Rogers
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Re: Pheasant Hunt [Re: Theeck] #13573740 02/17/19
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Bird numbers are WAY down across the dakotas and montana. 2 real bad winters, a drought and massive loss of crp have really taken their toll. Find pockets of them here and there. Ran into a bunch of sharpies and a few pheasants in central Montana this fall. But I haven't even bothered to hunt birds in n.d. for 2 years.

Re: Pheasant Hunt [Re: Theeck] #13575864 02/18/19
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During hunting season it should be more difficult to find a place that won't accept dogs than those that will. I have yet to find a motel in bird country that would not allow dogs into the rooms. I paid $10/day extra at one place in Texas otherwise dogs were included in the fee- which were the same whether you had a dog or not. Grab a motel room, you won't be disappointed and especially if you go out after Christmas. That can be a brutal time under normal conditions and potentially life threatening if caught in one of the blizzards that routinely hit the prairies in the winter. Id rather be trapped in a motel during a blizzard as I would more likely have shelter, heat, water, and be plowed out within a day or two of the blizzard subsiding. Get caught camping and it may be a week before a plow comes by if on a frequently used road. On a secondary or lesser road it may be weeks before a plow is seen. And that is for the nearest public road, the campground/area will probably not get plowed at all.

Re: Pheasant Hunt [Re: Theeck] #13576880 02/18/19
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Id suggest the following:

1. Don't camp and instead plan to say in a motel. It will be very cold here in December. Lows in the teens and 20's if you're lucky. Plus no daylight to speak of. Sun goes down about 5pm that time of year. Not hard to find motels that take dogs, at all. Savings in gas and wear and tear on your vehicle could be substantial.
2. Be somewhat flexible on your dates or locations. it could be in the 50's during the day or in the single digits. Sunny and calm or blizzard like conditions. If it looks unfavorable for your first choice, then you have a back up plan already made.
3. Our bonus birds are prairie grouse. The best time to hunt them is early in the fall before pheasant season opens.
4. I'd suggest you look at booking a wild bird outfitter, there are many including Daybreak, Halverson and ToriLil. You might find something you like from one of them. Easier to get birds on public in the days after the crops go out of the field. By December, depending on weather, many are utilizing private land exclusively. You might not see many at all on places you can hunt for free. YMMV.

Good luck and have fun.


"Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father's passin.'"
Re: Pheasant Hunt [Re: Theeck] #13577338 02/18/19
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Theeck Offline OP
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Thanks for all of the suggestions guys. I will definitely ise a motel. The dog was my biggest concern. I have a 4x4 and tire chains (plus come along, etc) so I should be okay as long as there is not a blizzard. I would love to go earlier but the only time that I have available would be after Christmas. I was hoping that I could find a few cattail drawls on public land that may still hold some birds. Maybe I am too optimistic. Would Iowa be a better bet than Kansas? It would be a shorter drive. Thanks again!

Re: Pheasant Hunt [Re: Theeck] #13580056 02/19/19
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Iowa took a severe hit in CRP lands when corn prices spiked a few years back. This affected bird numbers greatly and Iowa nearly dropped off the map for bird harvest. It is still better tha PA for wild birds but it is a lot tougher than in the past. This is true with all the Plains States as CRP enrollment dropped, the birds dwindled correspondingly. Poor weather hasn't helped either and it is even more of a problem with less cover.

I used to pick up an Iowa license every year but I stopped when the cover disappeared and the hunting is no different than MN. We used to regularly find bobwhites or Huns depending where we went but they are few and far between at best.

I believe Iowa's license still runs for a calendar year rather than for the season so if your hunt dates span New Years you will need to buy two licenses though I think there may be a discounted license available for those hunting close to season's end.

Bravo

Re: Pheasant Hunt [Re: Theeck] #13580148 02/19/19
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Theeck Offline OP
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Great info, thanks woodmaster. You think Kansas is a better bet to find birds than Iowa?

Re: Pheasant Hunt [Re: Theeck] #13582105 02/19/19
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I spent 3 years living in a tent in northern WI and ran traplines out of a tent in northern MN. If you have decent tent and a source of heat winter is no big deal camping. A lot of state campgrounds stay open all winter and have electric and usually one heated shower house. Our Coyote camp in north central WA was always in a tent in Jan. I used to take an explorer scout troop out winter camping. And our northern MN deer camp was in a tent. We had a toboggan set up with a pushing handle and pulling harness and we'd load it with camping gear and snowshoe into northern MN remote lakes to camp and Ice fish.

If you want to camp and have some experience at winter camping, go for it. A tent with a fly that goes all the way to the ground helps and we would lay a polar fleece blanket over the top of the tent to close off the ceiling vents, the blanket was between the roof top and the fly. If we were in a campground a couple electric quarts 1500 watt heaters kept the place decent(propane buddy heaters put out a lot of moisture and frost inside the tent is a problem with them. a vented (chimney propane heater works well our large deer hunting tent had a propane space heater and we had a 100 lb propane bottle and I've stayed in tents with fuel oil space heaters.

We used to camp in Eastern and central MT for pheasants and sharptails and around Winner SD for pheasants. On public access sights don't expect the numbers you see in SD hunting video, as most of those are on private land groomed for pheasants. Actually late season public land can get fairly decent as the masses have headed home, crops are down and the birds are starting to use the cover on public lands more.

Last edited by erich; 02/19/19.

After the first shot the rest are just noise.
Re: Pheasant Hunt [Re: Theeck] #13582740 02/19/19
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I would pick Kansas over Iowa due to weather, type of cover available, available public land, season going through Janurary, and having not only pheasants but also bobwhite and blue quail plus prairie chickens. Iowa has bobwhites but the numbers are pretty low. There are also Huns but they too are few in number. The Kansas license was good for a year from date of purchase so one could hunt the late season and then again the next season.

It's been a few years but the various parks I passed in Nebraska and Kansas closed in November. There isn't much in the way of winter activities such as snowmobiling, ice fishing, cross country skiing, and the like in those areas so they tend to close around the firearms deer season. I hunted those states in November and Janurary as those times were most convenient for me.

I stayed in motels as I preferred having a bed to sleep in, a hot shower, and a relatively secure place to keep my gear as I tried different places to hunt. It also gave me quick and easy mobility to change my location as needed to find birds. Eating at the local diner and/or tavern also gave me local info on bird numbers as well as some leads on areas to hunt. More than once, talking to a local gained me an invite to hunt on their ranch or farm which I would not have been able to do if I had been camping.

It is really up to you, I prefer a motel room while others prefer to camp.

Re: Pheasant Hunt [Re: Theeck] #13582898 02/19/19
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I live in NW Iowa and while pheasants were du jour in Iowa in decades past, I can only say that while there are still birds, and some good areas comparatively, I wouldn’t be inclined to recommend Iowa for a long, cross-country trip.

Our group travels a bit further west to SD if that tells you anything, and we do it mid-December when the out-of-state rush is mostly over. It can be mild and beautiful but we’ve hit winter snow storms and -20* wind chills too — it’s the western Midwest after all. And there are designated walk-in areas where you can find birds though you will work for them; you can find these areas mapped on SD’s fish & game website. In regard to this time of year, I would strongly recommend you plan on camping in a motel if considering SD Late in the year..

I can’t comment on Kansas or Oklahoma.

Re: Pheasant Hunt [Re: Theeck] #13583048 02/19/19
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Thanks guys

Erich: It sounds like you have had some fun.

Re: Pheasant Hunt [Re: Theeck] #13584183 02/20/19
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SD can be good in the very late season but it can get pretty darn cold. I've done the Dakotas instead of Kansas due to time/distance and I hunt with a group of guys who have contacts in those areas. The second hunts in December can be pretty tough as temps generally are in the teens and 20s for highs but the last trip had only one day above zero. We really lucked out as winds were mild for the most part.

If going on my own, I would head south due to weather and bird options. One doesn't see below zero for highs very often in Kansas with above freezing weather common. That is makes for much more comfortable hunting for all. Storms also seem to be shorter in duration with less difficult access after storms. On the other point, I can hunt most anything found in the Dakotas in MN but quail aren't available.

Re: Pheasant Hunt [Re: Theeck] #13584232 02/20/19
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Theeck Offline OP
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Minnesota seems like a great state for an outdoorsman. MN and CO would be my two preferred states to live. My wife and kids hare when I talk about moving, though. Our whole family is in PA and NJ

Re: Pheasant Hunt [Re: Theeck] #13584261 02/20/19
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Rural MN is great!

Re: Pheasant Hunt [Re: Theeck] #13584656 02/20/19
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MN is a very good state to bird hunt- there are a number of species available and some decent areas to do so.

Ducks are spotty at best, the flights do not pass through the state like they used to. Even the flights of divers have changed routes from the old days. The western part of the state is best but even then it can be tough. I do a couple traditional duck hunts per year but I generally shoot ducks as a bonus bird when field hunting geese these days.

Geese are tops, one can find decent hunting for Canadas most places. I don't target them like I used to as I pass shoot them as they fly over the house. Moving around, one can shoot geese from the first Saturday of September to the end of December.

Ruffed grouse and woodcock are the main attractions and one can't beat the state for them. WI can tie it and may be slightly better as fewer hunt these birds there. The U.P. Is a distant third as the amount of quality habitat is not there compared to the other two states.

Pheasants are not nearly as numerous as they have been but there can be good hunting in places and certain times. If one can find access to CRP lands or other grassy areas, one can be fairly successful early on. Until the crops come out, hunting can be very tough and even then it helps to have cold weather as the swamps freeze and one can get out where the birds are. I get serious about MN pheasants starting around Thanksgiving.

Sharptails grouse are available but not in the numbers or range they used to have. I shoot a couple when I'm working a young dog but they get a pass for the most part. Prairie chickens are on a permit basis and only open to state residents the last I looked.

I hunt rails, snipe, and but am the only one I know who does so and even that is sporadic. I've had great snipe hunting on flooded pastures but shots are long and tough. There isn't much small grain farming in the state and doves opened for hunting not long ago so there isn't much to concentrate them. Plus, they move out fairly early which doesn't help. I'll get a couple days of shooting when I mow down the pasture for weed control but a handful of birds is a good shoot.

Bird hunting stops for two weeks starting the first weekend of November when the firearms deer season opens. Bird seasons are open but there are enough yahoos out there that would not take kindly to a dog running by. This is the time I often headed out of state to chase birds.

Deer hunting can be good but it can be crowded on public lands and private is hard to get on during the firearms season One can get away from the crowds but it takes a fair bit of effort to hike back into the large blocs of land or time to pour over maps. To find smaller, limited access areas. Bow hunting is popular and lasts 3.5 months. Muzzleloading is 16 days starting the weekend after Thanksgiving which is tough due to weather and the regular firearms season ending.

Black bear hunting is pretty good. One area is by lottery with the rest of the state being over the counter. I hunt bears mostly in the non-quota area and take one every 3 years on average. I have opportunities nearly every year but hold out for bears in the 300+ range and pass on those smaller.

This is fall only hunting with most bears taken between Sept 1and the third weekend when the grouse season opens. Once the other Hunter's hit the woods the bears go nocturnal. Bear hunting is over bait too, the leaves aren't dropped and the cover is far too thick for spot and stalk.

MN has good hunting opportunities for birds and small game but we are lacking in variety for big game. At least we are centrally located so a long day's drive can get one to many other places. There are a couple places I would rather be but the wife's family is all here as are her friends. Divorcing her to move would leave me with no moneys or hunting- she is better friends with a great divorce attorney than i am. And the state laws are stacked against me in that department.


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