PIERRE, S.D. -- Excited shouts of "rooster, rooster!" will soon fill the fields of South Dakota. And while that excitement is part of the thrill of the hunt, Game, Fish and Parks officials also remind hunters to exercise caution and restraint, especially on low-flying roosters.
During 2004, 14 of South Dakota’s 22 reported hunting incidents occurred during pheasant hunts, quite often when a hunter fired at a low-flying bird.
"One incident occurred with only 40 yards between the victim and shooter," said Hunter Safety Program Specialist Al Bahe. "It’s important to know what’s beyond your intended target before you pull the trigger – somebody’s life may depend on it."
Hunters using the "walkers and blockers" method need to be extra careful. Last year, eight "blockers" and four "walkers" were injured by shotgun pellets while hunting pheasants.
Whether walking a corn field, milo field or chest-high weeds, hunters in a group are at risk for injury from shots taken at low-flying roosters. "The pellet pattern from a shotgun blast at a low-flying bird is typically at the upper-body level," Bahe noted, "resulting in a spray of shot at the head, neck, chest and arms."
Bahe said wearing hunter orange hats and vests may increase visibility for others in a hunting party, but the key is knowing where your hunting partners are at all times. If you don’t know where they are, don’t shoot.
"The brood counts tell us there are plenty of birds out there," Bahe said. "So let the low-fliers go and wait for the next chance. It is just not worth the risk injuring one of your hunting companions."