Prairie Chickens on Tribal Ground - Page 2

Helping You Get the Most From Your Hunting Dogs

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Photo by: Author
The Rosebud is a place that will leave your soul wanting for more adventure out on her wild and vast landscapes. There is a primal spirit that has me captivated on this tribal ground. Tribal game laws are different from state game laws - they are more liberal. For example, the Reservation offers an earlier start to all of their upland bird seasons. I like to go the second week in October for the pheasant opener on the Reservation. This is the week before the statewide pheasant opener. So you miss the crowds, but get an early pheasant opener on tribal ground while focusing on grouse hunting. The Reservation offers a patchwork of almost two million acres and some of the best western wing shooting adventure that is left to be had for both prairie chickens and sharptail grouse combined. There are also a ton of pheasants on the Reservation.

After ten PM and under a deep and starry sky, I went outside to get some fresh air, unable to sleep. I imagined the many harvest moons that have waxed and waned over the vastness of the western prairie. One hundred years ago indigenous games birds, prairie chickens in particular, were everywhere. Settlers reported skies black with chickens – a sustenance food for pioneer families. Prairie chickens are truly a traditional American game bird that cannot be raised in captivity, yet have been thriving on our prairie eons before us. Then I imagined the harvest moons yet to come. An image of my grandchildren afield with their gun dogs danced in my brain. Of course their dogs carry ancestral genes from gun dogs that I had owned. There they were, living the sporting life just as I had out on the wild prairie following their gun dogs with a hand me down double gun I had passed through time to their hand. A gun that had seen its share of upland adventure, including many prairie grouse hunts; the case color hardening faded from my own hands. This is the hunting heritage I pray passes onto future generations.

Photo by: Author
So even with chicken fever I finally fell asleep with these deep thoughts swimming through my head. I felt a connection to the past and to the grouse that have been out here on the prairie for a long time. The next day brought a blessing. While scouting with Chance, I spotted a big covey of prairie chickens flying by. Then an angel’s touch set them down under a blushing pink autumn sunrise. We marked the covey down several miles out and gave those chickens the day since I had made other plans. Kyle Moeller, an outfitter friend of mine had asked me to guide two fathers and their seventh grade sons on a state pheasant hunt. While another story all together, the two boys filled their “first bird” limits hunting with Mac. What could be better than contributing to a wing shooting initiation?  Well, maybe a three chicken day. With the boys and their dads limited out, packed up and headed for home I had the afternoon to hunt. Mac and I took two big “boomers” from that same covey! They were not far from where we had marked them down. I sat there in the native grass, boomers in hand while time seemed to hang in the air. In front of me, a virgin prairie landscape stood still, unchanged in its splendor. I thanked God for this special day and for the two big boomers. I can only pray that my children and great grand children will see a day like this.

Scott Winston is a semi-retired school principal in Boulder, Colorado. He has had Dansmirth English springer spaniels for over forty years. Scott works with a prairie grouse and pheasant hunting outfitter called “Prairie Grouse Haven” in South Dakota that accesses the Rosebud Indian Reservation as well as many private acres. They have a nice lodge near Carter, South Dakota offering quality, affordable hunts. For more detailed information, you can check out the report filed below. Scott’s writing and photography have been published in sporting journals the likes of Sporting Classics, Shooting Sportsman, Gun Dog, The Upland Almanac, The Bird Hunting Report, Pheasants Forever youth magazine and Colorado Outdoors. Scott loves to hunt with his spaniels, talk double guns and gun dogs. Feel free to correspond with him about hunting prairie chickens, shaptail grouse and wild roosters in South Dakota. His home number is 303-450-5013 or email:

To read more about the Rosebud Indian Reservation, please click here: Rosebud Indian Reservation Bird Hunting Report
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