You can hardly swing a pump gun within the borders of South Dakota without hitting a flushing cockbird, but if you want to hunt the state’s preeminent pheasant mecca, head to what’s known as the Golden Triangle. This region–with the towns of Chamberlain, Gregory, and Winner as the vertices–occupies the bluff country west of the Missouri River in the south-central part of the state, and offers some of the best pheasant hunting on the planet.
Start in Chamberlain, conveniently situated at the intersection of Interstate 90 and the Missouri River. Head east a few miles and pick up Route 50 South, which you’ll take to Route 44 West. Before you cross the river in search of ringnecks, launch your boat on Lake Francis Case, an impoundment of the Big Muddy, and spend the day hooking fat walleyes and smallmouth bass. You can pitch a tent or rent a cabin at the Snake Creek Recreation Area on the shores of the reservoir. Soak cutbait from shore at night for the reservoir’s overlooked channel cats.
Set out early in order to make it to the Corner Cafe in Gregory (Route 44 West to 47 South) for breakfast. Load up on homemade rolls to sustain yourself for a day of walking up pheasants with Dave Keiser of Double K Guide Service. If you’d rather find roosters on your own, hunt the abundant Walk-In Hunting Areas along Route 44. When you’ve got your limit, head back into town and leave your most well-plumed bird with Angela Wilson of Wild Intrigue Taxidermy.
As you head up Route 18 West on your way to Winner, swing by Dan’s Last Shot in Colome and have Dan prep your birds for the cooler. Or, at the very least, pick up an “I Got My Cock Cleaned and Smoked at Dan’s Last Shot” T-shirt for the kids.
In Winner, help the local ranchers thin out the prairie dog population a bit. Tom Mathis at T-Bone’s Treehouse will put you on a dog town.
As you pick your way along the gravel roads on your way back to Chamberlain, take time to knock on a few doors. Farmers here still occasionally grant access to hunters, especially those with a newfound fondness for the Golden Triangle.
From the May 2012 issue of Outdoor Life magazine.