White Lake Blues
Successful Hunter|March - April 2020
According to the map, there is an actual lake near the town of White Lake, South Dakota.
Terry Wieland

It’s to the north. South of town there’s another, but in 10 years of hunting pheasants up there, I’ve never seen either one. Anyway, being from Ontario, Canada, real lakes have names like Huron and Superior. Everything else is a pond.

Then there was last June. I was humming along I-90 past White Lake, and it seemed as if every ditch and every field was a lake, shimmering in the sunlight – some big enough to sport waves in the constant prairie wind. The flooding that began in the spring carried over into summer, the corn crop was a loss and machinery was standing idle. Down I-29 through Iowa it got worse, with interchanges closed, buildings collapsed and pavement buckled, undermined by the flooding.

Coming back north five months later on our way to South Dakota to hunt pheasants, it was little better. Road crews were at work the length of Iowa, but silos that collapsed in June now sat rusting, and the long irrigation sprinklers, which looked merely embarrassed before, up to their knees in water, were now positively forlorn.

The outlook for the pheasant crop was about the same as the corn, ranging from poor to dismal. The year before was bad because an isolated storm settled over our 500 acres in July and dropped golf ball-sized hailstones, killing adult birds and destroying nests, but in such cases a hunter always figures the birds will bounce back. That catastrophe, however, was compounded by this year’s flooding.

On the plus side, the contract farmers had been at work on the property, plowing under sorghum that had become infested with bristle burr – not great if you run setters with feathery coats – and replaced much of it with millet. Corn fields were switched, some left fallow, and a lot of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) grass was gone because the program expired. Altogether, bird numbers aside, we were going to be hunting what amounted to a whole new property. Who knows what a whole new property might hold?

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