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Copyright 2010 Joe Byers 20202 Mahogany Circle
Hagerstown, MD 21742 (301) 797-0926
Indian Reservations have their own seasons and bag limits above and beyond state regulations. I hunted the Cheyenne River Reservation
in South Dakota and discovered a “new world” of opportunity. Our group of 10 took five bucks, several real trophy bucks. Here’s the low
down on a little known hunting opportunity.
Stepping into the river bottom was like whitetail heaven! Still-hunting into the wind I walked a deer trail that looked like an interstate highway.
Hooves had worn the vegetation down to the dirt and rubs and scrapes were everywhere. This was the first morning of a three-day hunt in
central South Dakota, just north of the Lake Oahe, and instantly I had regrets. My vision of the “rez,” as it’s called locally, was wide open
spaces and long shots at moving deer. Instead, I was sneaking through dense cover where the average shot was barely 50 yards. I hadn’t
brought my scent elimination or buck lure juice and I really needed both. This may sound crazy, but I wanted to trade my rifle for a bow and
a tree stand. These trails were crazy hot!
Success on the Open Prairie
While I stalked the thick stuff, Neil Davies was on the open prairie where he and a friend were making small drives through plum thickets.
Davies is the Marketing Director for Hornady Manufacturing and put his new Superformance ammo to good use, taking a dandy buck with a
good rest and a 425 yards shot.
Neil’s deer was the only one taken our first day, yet Conservation Officer Mike Kennedy got us fired up about his big mule deer find. After
checking our licenses, he pulled a 207-inch muley rack from his truck and our eyeballs nearly fell out. We each posed with the monster rack
including Kennedy as Toby Shaw shielded the Reservation name with his arm. Don’t worry, Toby, I won’t tell.
My Turn to Shoot
Our group saw more deer activity along the edge of the prairie than in the river bottoms, so the next day I took a stand on a high bluff
overlooking a number of trails. Just before dark, a 100-class 2 ½ year old buck fed into the open. Although this wasn’t the trophy I was after,
it would make great table fare and my Mossberg 4×4 in 30-06 (and Superformance) dropped the animal in its tracks.
My tag filled, I purchased a small game license and planned to bag a limit of pheasants (3) the next day. My group of three guys showed how
very diverse and flexible a reservation hunt can be. Ben Payton had an “any deer” tag allowing a mule deer or whitetail, Bob Swanson had a
whitetail license, and today, I’d carry a shotgun for pheasants.
New Fashioned Deer Drive
We began a walking drive just after sun-up and immediately got action. The plan was for me to beat the plum thickets and push deer onto
the prairie for my buddies. Somehow, we got things reversed and I walked the skyline. Suddenly, I saw a deer burst over the horizon 300
yards away. Had this been Colorado, I would have sworn it was an elk.
Sooo, we changed positions and just in time. Although the pheasants continued to run a mile ahead, honest, (well OK, half a mile ahead),
Bob and Ben kept several hundred yards above and ahead of my position. As I entered one very thick patch of brush, the pheasant from hell
began thrashing and I soon saw the wide rack of a big buck crashing up the ridge. I yelled as loud as I could, but my voice was swallowed
up the prairie wind. Luckily, the buck broke into the open just as Bob and Ben were planning their next post. Ben took a quick shot through
the brush with his R-25 while Bob got a shot in the open and dropped the big deer at mid-bound.
What a celebration! By the time I arrived, Bob and Ben had practically high-fived their fingers off and for good reason. This was a 160-frame
5×5 buck with a “drop beam.” Apparently, the deer had injured its antler during the summer and developed into a one-of-a-kind rack that
most hunters would die for.
Great Times and More Tines
After dragging the beast a couple hundred yards, we loaded it into a truck and headed for a rendezvous with the rest of the gang. We met at a
roadside spot adjacent to what we called the pheasant farm where seeing hundreds of pheasants in a field was common. Like a tailgate
party, we unpacked a cooler, made sandwiches, and relived the events of the morning. Half way through the frivolity, someone let it slip that
there was another buck in the back of a rig. No way! Yes way! Lee Hetherington had taken a great buck in mid morning and in keeping with
the great times afield, held the announcement for maximum mojo.
Overall, our camp took five bucks, including three deer 3 ½ years or older. As a percentage hunt, this may only be average, yet the diverse
hunting conditions were fascinating. I plan to return next year a little wiser and more selective. The Cheyenne River Reservation produces
Boone & Crocket muleys and whitetails. Rule number one for a record book animal… hunt where the big ones live.
Resources: The Cheyenne River Reservation website is under construction (www.crstgfp.gov) but complete information can be obtained by
calling (605) 964-7812 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (605) 964-7812 end_of_the_skype_highlighting. Why not double up?
Use South Dakota tourism for travel information at www.travelsd.com and get licenses for deer, pheasants, waterfowl, etc at www.sdgfp.
South Dakota Indian Reservations
Go Native for Whitetails
By Joe Byers