Pheasant guiding in South Dakota. The pheasant haven of the US where thousands of upland hunters embark on their annual pheasant hunt every fall. The sound of roosters cackling across the prairies and the skyline filtered with feathers as these beautiful birds move across the plains in search of food and safety. Can it get any better than that?
I’ve been hunting birds for most of my life but only actively guiding for a few. Growing up in Nebraska the hunt usually consisted of more Quail opportunities than Pheasant. However, the opportunities where there and success was had on almost every endeavor. Living and guiding in South Dakota these past few years has opened up a whole new world of opportunities as well a few lessons learned. Just like anything we do on a semi-regular basis we get better at it as well as we discover better gear to be more efficient at it.
With this much traffic and excitement in the air around the pheasant opener, it’s paramount that as a guide and or hunter you are prepared. The last thing your clients want is to be waiting for you due to your lack of preparation. Fortunately, South Dakota has a youth and a resident-only season which both fall weeks before the annual opener. This allows guys like me a chance to get my dogs out and hopefully, some wild pheasants shot over them. A chance to work off the rust of the off-season and for them to key in on what type of conditions we have in store for this season. This is also a great time to do a gear check for the busy days that are soon to follow.
As much as I love a new pair of boots, I don’t recommend you wear them for the first time on opening day. A few weeks before the season is a great time to break those boots in. Even if you just have to wear them around the house for a few days. But breaking in a new pair of boots on the opener, ouch that’s going to hurt and quite possibly make your opening weekend of what should be a great time it bit miserable. Your boots are quite possibly the most overlooked aspect of your hunting gear especially if you only get out a few times a year.
As a guide taking care of my feet is crucial and it’s pretty obvious why. After two tours to Iraq and Afghanistan, I learned the hard way how important it was to take care of my feet. With the extremely dry conditions and the countless miles put on my boots each day, upon returning home my feet looked like something out of a sci-fi movie for several months and I’m not about to go down that road again.
As I write this on November 14th, 2019, I have put 84 miles on my boots since October 13th, 2019. I have no idea if that’s a lot compared to other guides or not, but I do know that it’s a lot of walking in all types of conditions. This year I made the switch to Irish Setter Boots (Wing Shooter series) and have been nothing but pleased with these. Over the years I have realized that I don’t need an insulated Upland boot, regardless of conditions my feet will sweat. The Wing Shooter is waterproof and I prefer the 9” style as there is a lot of wetlands in South Dakota and you can get caught in a swampy spot that you will need to cross and all the extra boot height you can get will come in handy. I also carry an extra pair of wool socks to switch out during the day if need be.
Take good care of your boots by brushing them off each day, protecting the leather and checking your laces and these boots will last you for years to come. Happy feet make for a much more enjoyable day afield.
Boots are not the only thing you need to be checking before pheasant opener. Ensure the dog collars, all of them, are in good working order and properly labeled and fully charged. If you use chaps like me check them for rips, cracks and make sure the zippers are good to go. My chaps are Filson Tin Cloth Chaps. These come with an oil finish to protect against water. They also come with extra oil for maintenance each year. When dealing with leather products take the best care possible with them during the off-season and they will most likely outlast anything else you have ever bought.