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Role Based Pheasant Hunting in South Dakota

By: Chris Hitzeman
UGUIDE South Dakota Pheasant Hunting

When the birds are laughing at you - Get your game on!

If you're like me, you've had your share of watching skittish pheasants evade your pursuit from a waaaaay too far away vantage point. After putting up the cost of gas, license, shells, dogs, food, guns and gear, you might start to get a little agitated if you aren't seeing some birds go into the game bag.

It can be argued what fair chase is and isn't, but when it comes to crunch time, it is nice to have "Plan B" in your back pocket. This is especially strategic if you are hunting South Dakota native wild pheasants. You might ask,"What difference does that make?" This is a good question. South Dakota pheasants get hunted harder than any other game bird in any other part of the country. If you have a 2 year old bird that survived last season out in front of your hunting group, you my friend are dealing with a PhD rooster. YOU NEED A PLAN!

Enter Role Based Pheasant Hunting. Although wandering aimlessly on a sunny October afternoon with my favorite 4-legged friend ranks mighty high on my list of favorite things to do, when you start dealing with birds in the hundreds that have been hunted and are WILD, that walk in the park can turn into a nightmare in short order.

Try implementing this plan of attack. Separate your group into volunteers that want to assume 1 of 3 roles: walker, blocker or flanker. Each one of these roles plays a strategic part. The walkers are generally the guys with the dogs and anyone else that enjoys walking. The blockers are the guys who always deliver the walkers and flankers to their positions before heading down to the other end of the field to assume their posting position. These could be elderly folks that can't walk like they used to or anyone else that wishes to block. These guys always run the vehicles and efficiently manage getting the hunters from one spot to the next. The flankers might be the younger more fleet of foot hunters in your group. These guys cover the gaps between walkers and blockers and generally start out with the walkers. These guys need to be able to close a gap where birds begin leaking out between walkers and blockers.

Let's use an example hunt consisting of a piece of cover about the size of a football field only that it is 2 to 3 times longer than one field. If you had a group of 6, I would suggest that 2 walk, 2 flank and 2 block. If you have 10, I would add 2 more blockers and 2 more walkers. Or, depending on how the birds are reacting, you could add 2 more flankers outside your existing flankers and then add 1 more walker/blocker each.

The job of the walkers is to keep the birds in front of them and moving towards the blockers. They must control speed to ensure that they are not walking over birds. The flanker's job is to stay positioned 100 yards up and 100 yards out to the side from where the walkers are on the outside edges of cover. The blockers should surround the end of the cover that you are hunting. If you have the manpower, I would suggest your outside blockers could also behave like reverse flankers getting up and out 100 yards or so from the nearest end blocker.

Once the hunt begins, everyone needs to know what their impact is on the cover being hunted. Flankers need to adjust gaps in order to pin birds down so that the walkers and dogs can work them up. When wild birds feel surrounded, they will hold. If they detect gaps, they will expose them and you will watch them fly off unscathed into the sunset.

So, in groups of 4-12, you can determine what roles need to be staffed and then adjust accordingly. I believe that groups of 6-10 are the ideal size for most hunting situations in South Dakota.

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