Wiltz: Fishing and prairie dogs is a full SD day
Believe me, the South Dakota threshold to adventure is just a few steps away.
After church on a recent Sunday morning, I climbed into my trusty Dodge Dakota and headed for Mitchell. Once in Mitchell, it took five minutes to transfer my gear to my friend Gordy's truck, and then we were on our way to Dry Lake No. 2 just north of Willow Lake, a trip less than two hours long.
Knowing that I would fish meandered waters in the near future, I put the story of our governor's recent "meandered waters" decision on hold. Until very recently, a chain had stretched across the road aside the Dry Lake boat ramp. The huge lake covers both South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks property, as well as private property, and this would be my first experience at fishing the lake. In 1981, when Dry Lake was very dry, I killed a large-bodied, five-point whitetail buck on, and my story about that hunt followed in a 1982 issue of "South Dakota Conservation Digest.
My personal opinion of the meandered waters controversy? If a flooded area is private property on which taxes are being paid, we should respect the owner's property. If the landowner so desires, the state should pay the owner the going rate for the property. If and when the property dries up again, the state can sell the property.
On the west side of Dry Lake No. 2, there is a GF&P dock with concrete boat ramps and there is also a concrete outhouse. Access is on State Highway 28 west of Willow Lake and it appeared that campers were using the area at no charge.
Though the action was slow due to cold fronts, we caught a few very fat walleyes and northern pike. On Sunday night, we stayed in Willow Lake's Hometown Hotel (605-625-5226) and this establishment was first class. It has a fish-cleaning facility for guests complete with freezer and a modest continental breakfast was also available.
Though Dry Lake No. 2 is huge, I don't know if it is South Dakota's largest lake. It certainly rivals nearby Lake Poinsett but boating on Dry is an adventure. All of the Dry Lake visitors were anglers — men, women, and children. They were friendly and willing to share information and there were no jet skis or boats towing tubes. The access area did have a stretch of sandy beach for bathers and bank fishermen. Depth appeared to run between 2 and 12 feet and I suggest looking for submerged timber and roadways. I will definitely return in the fall.
When I returned home from fishing Monday evening, I loaded some different gear into the Dakota. It included folding chairs, a card table, my Caldwell Lead Sled, ammo, and two rifles. My rifles included a Ruger single-shot in .223 Remington as well as a Remington bolt-action in .22 Hornet. Doug, my partner, packed a .204 Ruger caliber as well as a bolt-action in .223 Remington caliber. Doug also had a homemade folding bench.
Some column readers, a wonderful couple who reside within the Winner School District, invited me to shoot prairie dogs on their property. It was ok to bring a friend along, and a house was available if we wanted to stay overnight. As mentioned in the past, our world is full of generous, thoughtful people.
Though clear and sunny, a prairie dog requisite, the days' wind was horrendous to say the least. Shooting in a crosswind was challenging. With my Lead Sled rifle rest, I could dial height and direction against a sod pooch's body. Both rifles were dead on at a hundred yards, and estimating the distance (the .223 would shoot about 3 inches low at 200 yards) as well as the wind play was educational. I didn't use the .22 Hornet for shots beyond 100 yards. When shooting with the wind or into the face of the wind, wind adjustment wasn't necessary.
Thanks to the Lead Sled, I made some very long shots that astonished me. I waited too long in life to buy my Lead Sled, but the day's action "paid" for that piece of equipment in one outing. If you shoot rifles, get yourself a Lead Sled. It also helps that both of my varmint rifles have precision accuracy. In handloading my own ammo, I've tried many combinations to get what's right for my rifles.
I had heard about it, but I had never actually seen it until our hunt. Two sod rodents were standing on the same mound about 150 yards out. I was downwind, and I drilled the dog on my right. The other dog immediately grabbed hold of his mortally wounded partner, dragged him to the hole, and pulled him in. I have also heard that prairie dogs are cannibalistic. Do any readers have a thought on this?
Before someone accuses us of being thoughtless killers, I want to say that cattle could be injured by prairie dog holes and prairie dogs also turn a pasture into wasteland. Prairie dogs must be controlled, and shooting is more humane than an agonizing death by poison.
Hope you had a great Fourth of July holiday. See you next week.