Hunting the Dakotas in warm weather

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Turtle Lake, South Dakota — If anyone insists that our climate isn’t changing they certainly haven’t been hunting pheasants this year, at least not on the great plains of mid-America.

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If anything, this year’s annual outing has been nothing short of a sweaty, sun-baked, and tiring trek in search of the country’s favorite game bird. In fact, this trip, planned for a mid-November week that would certainly put us in the field on fresh snow turned out to be the perfect time to be surf fishing on the Outer Banks.

Instead, we awoke to cloudless skies each morning and watched glowing sunsets each evening. And of course tramped our way through gleaned corn fields and heavily brushed sloughs in between.

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The hunting was as tough as we’ve experienced in our history of flat land pheasant hunts and one we’ll have to recall if, and when, we head there again.

According to local farmers, who live and die on the grain crop and market, this has been a banner year for them and as such every square foot of their expansive holdings has been gathered for sale.

Interestingly, decent farmland, void of buildings and un-tillable land here is bringing premium prices and the sale of such open land is fast. Many farmers in the area can’t see even a majority of the their holdings from any one point, no matter how high.

Farmers count their cropland in acres numbering thousands of acres and in easily identified platted sections that each measure a square mile each way.

The Dakotas, both south and north, are home to friendly folks who know their neighbors and never miss the opportunity to pull up next to a resting orange-clad group to see how they are doing.

Hunting there was a challenge this year but not a final ending. Surely, there will be another chapter next time around.

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Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.

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