Birds may fly south for the winter, but thousands of hunters flock to South Dakota each fall.
Last year more than 100,000 out of state hunters traveled to the Rushmore state, and with pheasant numbers on the rise, that number is expected to be even higher this year.
“There seems to be more Pheasants this year than last year. Even though last year we did quite well. This year it seems to be that there are more pheasants out there," Indiana Native Steve Priest said.
Priest has been coming to Winner, South Dakota for the last 10 years.
"We see good hunting ground. The people out here are great and that's what keeps us coming back," Priest said.
The Indiana native is far from the only one who makes the annual trip. Scott Bassinder has been traveling with his father Robert to the Rushmore State from his hometown of Toms River, New Jersey for the last 17 years.
For them, the trip to Torrey Lake Lodge in Platte is a chance to catch up with some old friends.
"A lot of the guys I don't see for the whole year and it’s like a little family reunion," Robert said.
"It’s definitely the camaraderie of our group. Small groups here and accommodations are the best that I've been to. I've been to a couple places in South Dakota and this is definitely the best," Scott said.
North Carolina hunter Howard Stein is the one who introduced the Bassinders to South Dakota. He's been coming to the state for 17 years and already has reservations for next year.
"W enjoy being here at the lodge, the accommodations, the people are just terrific," Stein said.
Those accommodations are more than just a field to hunt in. Local owners help find the right fields to hunt and then the real experts take over.
"The dog work is a very important aspect to pheasants hunting and that's what everyone enjoys is the dog work and of course the pheasants here," Priest said.
"We see rabbits, we see deer, geese, ducks and we enjoy seeing the dogs work," Stein said.
On this day, the group found plenty of success in the fields.
Last years' mild winter and a relatively warm fall was exactly what the doctor ordered for pheasant hunters. Bird populations are up, and Robert says the experience has been even better.
"It's being out here in nature...the weathers changing all the time out here today it's overcast and windy but it's nice we came out this year about two weeks earlier than normal," Robert said.
"It's been a great year. We've had a good morning so far. We're out this afternoon for our second hunt and with any luck we'll bring back a few more birds," Stein said.
And with another successful hunting trip in the books, this group, like many others, will most certainly be back next fall.
According to the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Department, the pheasants per mile population is up 18 percent this fall. Last year more than 1.5 million pheasants were harvested from South Dakota Fields.
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