Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz

Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake Herald, Minn.

April 20, 1998

Wildlife on the South Dakota prairie

The great explorers Lewis and Clark traveled across the present day South Dakota prairie in 1804 and again in 1806 exploring Louisiana Purchase lands.

According to their journals, the amount of wildlife they encountered was incredible. They were in awe and marveled at the wonders of the prairie.

Two weeks ago, the great vacationers: myself, my wife, and our baby daughter traveled across the South Dakota prairie to sightsee and relax.

We swam in the hotel pool and enjoyed western South Dakota's Badlands, Black Hills, and Mount Rushmore.

But the truly amazing part of our trip was the drive across the prairie. Just like Lewis and Clark, we were in awe of and marveled at the wonders of the prairie. The amount of wildlife we encountered and witnessed was incredible.

For the long drive home, we decided to leave Rapid City and the Black Hills at 4:30 a.m. so we would be crossing the heart of the prairie as the sun came up.

As the sun crept over the horizon that morning, the adventure on Interstate 90 and smaller county roads began. The wind was calm, the sky was clear, and the grass was covered with dew - perfect conditions for wildlife watching.

That morning, from sunrise until about 10 a.m., we saw deer mule and whitetail, sharptailed grouse, prairie chickens, coyote, geese, a thousand or more pheasants, and ducks in huge numbers.

Near Fort Thompson, overlooking the Missouri River, we had to stop and let a large group of pheasants get off the road. I hopped out of the van to get a better look at the birds and the scenic view of the river and from that location saw 50-plus pheasants, six prairie chickens, hundreds of mallards, and 10 mule deer.

I was amazed. We weren't looking over any type of wildlife preserve or sanctuary, just over acres of undisturbed grass and brush-covered hills that seemed to go on forever.

So did the wildlife - where there was grass and cover wildlife was abundant.

As we traveled east, the prairie started to shrink and give way to more fencelines and intensely farmed fields. Soon, the grasslands were gone and so were the pheasants, the deer, and the ducks.

As we entered farm country in eastern South Dakota, the lack of vast grasslands, rolling hills, and wildlife made the wonders of the prairie that much more amazing.

Get out your Beetle Spin

The crappie bite on our area lakes has gotten off to a fast start and according to a few anglers, the fishing has been good.

Anglers on Mary, Winsted, and Swan have all reported some good crappie fishing, with a few anglers on Mary taking home their limit of good sized fish.

The water is a bit warmer than it typically would be at this time of year and that warmer water created a fast start to early season crappie fishing.

For the most part, crappies will follow small bait fish that head to the warmer water of shallow and muddy bays. Head to those shallow bays, fish off the breaks, and you should find crappies.

Vary your presentation. Start slow, drifting with a small jig and minnow or move all the way up to my favorite crappie lure, a Beetle Spin with a white tail.

On Swan, try the northwest corner with a Beetle Spin or Twister Tail tipped with a small minnow.

On Ann, try the crick right by the landing and on Mary, drift with a small jig and minnow in front of the sportsmen's club landing.

Winsted Sportsmen's Club

Members of the Winsted Sportsmen's Club recently completed their annual wood duck house project. This year they constructed and donated or placed out 60 houses.

The club reported that over 32 individuals participated in its DNR certified firearms safety training program this year.

Also, club members have boat landings on lakes Mary and Ida in good shape and ready for use and are in the process of extending the dock at the landing on Dog Lake.

Outdoor notes

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