By Ali Hussainy (BDOutdoors.com)
It’s that time of year again… We parked the boat a couple weeks ago and started getting ready for hunting season. The past couple years I found myself with way too much free time and money so I also picked up bow hunting.
Since then, I have been dreaming of a mega combo hunt in South Dakota with our buddies at Pepper Slough Outfitters in Henry, SD. Because of the location and the amount of CORN grown in the area this place is a game mecca. We have all seen big flights of birds, but I think SD holds as many or more birds than anywhere in the US. The lines after lines of waterfowl are just something to see. I’ve been keeping in touch with the owner Marty Maciel looking for some solid dates where we could kill ducks, geese and maybe even a Dakota white tail.
About three weeks ago we set some dates, I called up my buddy Todd and we were on our way. I had a conference in Florida the week before so I shipped my gear out to the Pepper Slough Lodge by UPS. I was nervous as hell sending my shotgun, bow and gear but everything arrived without a hitch.
Todd and I got to the lodge late Friday night and opted to pheasant hunt the next day because you can’t hunt them until noon and this would allow us to get some sleep.
We awoke the next day, had a nice breakfast and got ready for the hunt. We met our hunting partners for the day and loaded up. This was opening day for pheasant in South Dakota and the number of hunters in the airport and on the road was insane! Hunting, especially pheasants is a big deal in these parts as evidenced by the sign in the airport.
Our ride for the week.
After a quick 20 min drive we arrived at Pepper Sloughs main property. It’s 500 acres of cornfield, tree lines and ponds. Just as you might guess, these areas are loaded with pheasants, waterfowl and deer. We had a total of 6 hunters and 2 guides as well as a few dogs. We pushed through cornfields, tree lines and grass fields and had a steady flow of pheasants. We just jumped around the property working different pieces of cover and after about 4 hours everyone had their three bird limits.
Lots of corn on the ground.
Close range pheasant. “Our pets heads are falling off!”
I used to hunt a lot of pheasants as a kid and as I’ve gotten older, my focus has shifted more to waterfowl and now deer. I gotta say, I completely forgot how much fun hunting ditch chickens can be. I was having a blast dropping these big, delicious birds.
Did I mention we like to drink after a long day of hunting?
Day two would see me and Todd split up to hunt waterfowl in two different areas. I had applied for and drawn the SD non-resident waterfowl permit. It’s not hard to get, but you need to apply in MID JUNE if you want to do this. Since Todd didn’t have his permit he went with Sean, one of the guides to a nearby Indian Reservation.
We hunted Pepper Slough again just a few hundred yards from where we hunted pheasants the day before. I have never done a field hunt for ducks but plenty of times for geese where we had to pass on ducks. Not this time! We got all set up just as shoot time was approaching and we had birds on us as soon as we jumped in the blinds. Before the sun was completely up, we already had half a dozen nice mallards down. Given the opportunity, I’d rather shoot mallards than anything else so I was stoked. After a couple quick hours, we had limits of Mallards with just a few junk ducks (widgeon) mixed in. A lot of the green heads were mottled as they didn’t have their “green heads” yet.
I checked in with Todd and crew by text message and the duck hunting over there SUCKED. The good news was, Todd was able to kill is first pair of Canada Geese so he was super stoked.
Todd and his geese.
We all met back at the lodge for a little lunch over a few coldies. We all swapped some stories and got ready for the evenings deer hunt. Marty put us in a couple of stands just a few miles down the road and we started our sit. I didn’t see anything in my location and Todd saw a few does that were all out of range or after dark.
Deer hunting was going to be a challenge this trip as there was still a lot of corn standing. Normally by now the corn is all cut and the pheasant and deer don’t have anywhere to hide. Knowing this, Marty made some calls and got us hooked up with a farmer buddy who had most of his corn down and a lot of deer on his property.
Day Three was going to be pheasant in the morning and Deer in the PM on the new property. The pheasant were a little tougher today with a larger group and more limits to fill. We had about 10 guns and it took until about 3pm to get everyone their limit or close to it.
In the afternoon we suited up for the cold and went to the new property to try out a couple spots. My spot was a big tree line between to standing rows of corn. As I walked in I couldn’t believe the amount of sign. More tracks, poop, beds and rubs than I have ever seen times 10. When you see the size of some of the tracks it’s hard to believe they aren’t elk. They grow big deer here!
There was supposed to be a stand in the treeline, but I couldn’t find it. I did find a big tree that had fallen and was sitting against another tree. The intersection of the trees would make a great stand. I carefully shimmied my fat ass up the tree until I was on a natural perch where the tree split. I got settled in with high hopes. After two hours I had not seen jack. As I’m packing up my bag I hear a sound like nothing I have ever heard. It sounded like a 1000# hog was under my tree snorting at the top of it’s lungs! It literally scared me so bad I almost fell off the limb I was on. I turned to see the dark shadow of a what looked like a giant deer, snorting and stomping. When I turned he spooked and came around me to try and catch my wind. As he came out of the tree line to get around me the moon light lit him up and I could see through the cover he was HUGE. I couldn’t make out the rack in the cover but the body was massive. He came around behind me and snorted, stomped and broke branches for another 5 min. I was a little scared to come out of the tree!
When Todd picked me up he told me he passed on a 4×4 at 10 yards! Apparently it was a young deer with a lot of points, but still! I don’t think I would have had that kind of control.
Now I was fired up to get back in that tree!
Day four came way too early with us going back to Pepper Slough for more ducks and geese. We made some adjustments from our prior spot knowing there wasn’t as many ducks in the area and hoping to hit the X. Unfortunately it was MUCH slower this morning for ducks. We only got worked by a couple groups. The good news was the honkers were flying and we got lots of looks and shots. Lots of shots. When the dust settled we had killed just one honk and one mallard. We simply couldn’t hit our asses. They put us on plenty of birds, but we couldn’t shoot. Very frustrating morning. We made a move and after another 1.5 hrs. nothing happened so we left.
Eager to get back in the woods with our bows Todd and I left about an hour earlier and went to work. On my way into the stand I bumped a doe lying on the edge of the cornfield. How those things can hear you sneaking in from 300 yards amazes me.
I found my perch in no time and settled in. After about 15 minutes I was looking down at my bow and as I look up I see three deer coming in fast. It was a big doe and two smaller ones. As the doe walked in to my lane, I stopped her. When she stopped I had a hole about the size of a notepad to put my arrow through. No prob right? Wrong! Imade a quick, crappy shot and hit a branch and it made a loud THWACK! It send the smaller deer scattering but the big doe jumped 25 yards and stared to look around. I held still for about 5 min while she stared at me and couldn’t make me out. She eventually put her head down and went back to feeding.
As she fed she moved closed to me. When her head was behind a tree, I quickly drew my bow and held. After what felt like an eternity (probably 3 minutes) she came out and turned broadside to me at 23 yards. I collected myself, went down my mental checklist and sent my arrow. From the second it left I knew it was a money shot. She took off to my right like a bat out of hell. As I’m thinking WTF? Her front wheels stuttered and she bounced her chin off the ground. This happened a couple more times until she made it to the end of the corn where I could see her stand up and just tip over. Brown and down!
I quickly txt’d the boys to tell them and they said to stay in the tree and wait for a big buck. Pretty sure my animal was dead I went back to work.
A few minutes later I see a big doe and two smaller ones come from where my animal went down. I began to wonder if I missed and my doe had regrouped with her fawns. It really had me thinking hard. I finally assured myself there was no way and this group started to come my way. A little buck was trailing them for a minute but then went back into the corn.
For the next 45 minutes these does set up camp under my stand and were joined by a couple more. The had me completely surrounded and I could have shot each one at under 5 yards at some point. For a guy who never drew his bow until today it was maddening. I could have taken another, but I wanted to save my any sex tag for a buck or another trip. So instead I shot this video showing them all over me like rats! (watch full screen)
As dark came, I climbed down, called Todd and was talking to him as I was walking the edge of the corn towards my deer. I told him “this looks like a good sign” as I saw two legs sticking out of the corn. I walked up and found my animal dead as a door nail with a perfect entry wound! The deer looked kind of small to me but when todd and the boys saw it they estimated it at about 150#. I was STOKED.
For me this was a HUGE deal. I have sat 15 times in the local mtns without drawing my bow. Every time I wonder what I’m doing up in that tree, but a few days later I come back more determined than ever. After 18 total sits, I finally got my chance and got it done. The fact I passed on a few more animals made me even more content.
We spent that night dragging and gutting. The farmer that owned the land was a young kid named Tucker. He was a huge helping diving out to us after we’d almost died dragging the thing and took it the rest of the way. We took him to dinner and found out he is crazy about saltwater fishing. We started trade negotiations over some beers and we’ll definitely be back out there to kill a couple of their big bucks!
I really can’t thank Marty and Sean from Pepper Slough Outfitters ( www.peppersloughoutfitters.com ). These guys run an awesome operation and they love to hunt. They really go the extra mile to put their guests on their quarry. The lodge is amazing and the food at the nearby restaurant is solid. If you’re looking for a 5 star hunt with 500 thread count sheets and mints on the pillows, this isn’t your place. If you want to hunt some amazing land with a great team at a very reasonable price, these are your guys. You really can’t beat the location or the value.
Check out our Snow Goose hunt earlier this year here: