4th of July Prairie Update

Hot and Dry!

2017 Summer Update from Prairie Smoke Ranch

Summer greetings from the prairie! As you may have heard, it is dry here. The ranch has landed on the edge of the drought map, which intensifies to the west and south of us. All told we have had less than two and a half inches of rain all summer. We are far from crisp however, as snow melt was significant and our clay soils held quite a bit of moisture going into spring. Our pastures still look good, the alfalfa fields fair. We are in much better shape than other areas of the state.


We are seeing duck broods regularly even as the smaller sloughs dry down. The bird counters at ND Game and Fish report a spring breeding duck total of 2.95 million birds, down 15 percent from last year. The good news: it still stands 23 percent above the long-term average (1948-2016) and is the 24th highest on record. Results indicate canvasbacks (up 23 percent), pintails (up 5 percent) and redheads (up 2 percent) increased from their 2016 estimates, while shovelers were unchanged. Mallards were fairly stable (down 5 percent), while ruddy ducks showed the largest decrease (down 36 percent). All other ducks were 16-28 percent below last year’s numbers. However, most species, with the exception of pintails, blue-winged teal and ruddy ducks, were well-above the 69-year average.

We have seen many pintails this spring and plenty of teal; ruddies however are scarce.

The other common critters are pheasants; we see them each day during our travels on and off the ranch. Our relatively warm, dry spring bodes well for the pheasant hatch, but we will see how that translates into rooster flushes per hour.

The usual smattering of huns and sharpies have made guest appearances.


Only a bird dog could love our weedy, sparse, and struggling food plots. We have corn and sorghum in but the fields look terrible. Our neighboring fields are in similar desperate straits – patchy, wind-blown, dry. Harvests will be down. As this is written the ducks are working over the remaining corn in last year’s plots. For some reason our corn plots were not hammered by deer last winter, so we had plenty of cobs for spring birds. Our clover mix came thru the winter nicely and has held sharpies.

A couple of good rain showers (like we’re sposed to get tonite) will turn things around.


Many of our smaller sloughs have dried down significantly or entirely (e.g. Nick 1 & 2) but our big water has a long way to go to get down to levels of a few years ago. Droughty conditions are not necessarily a bad thing, as long as you have an option for big water. With literally hundreds of thousands of potholes around us, fewer ponds mean concentrated birds and heavier game bags.  At this point, not a problem.


Applications for tundra swan tags are due August 16. Applications can be found on-line at the ND Game and Fish site in late July/early August. If you apply for a tag you will likely receive one. Good for one swan per season. More details later.


Coyotes are down, muskrats are nearly non-existent. Both white-tailed and mule deer populations have rebounded nicely after several tough winters. Nest-busting, egg-sucking, canine-sticking coons, skunks and porkies (respectively) are present in unacceptable numbers and will be dealt with accordingly, per prairie dictates.


The bright spot this spring has been the fishing, specifically the walleye bite. Area lakes are giving up limits whenever the wind goes down long enough to get out after them. We plan to start trout fishing next week, both on the Missouri River and a couple local lakes. We smoked up a batch of rainbows a few weeks ago to good effect; time for some more. Pounded some beautiful channel cats on the Missouri today below the Garrison Dam.


I just made a run around the entire ranch checking fence this afternoon. Our low water conditions should not impact our usual blinds and setups. I think we may actually have a couple of new options on the bigger water. We will probably set up Mallard Point again for ducks rather than swans. We may also get the Island Slough back if it dries down a bit more.

We already have some blue-green algae and its related toxin on some of the sloughs. This often appears with the hot weather of August and dissipates with the arrival of cooler weather. Be careful when dog training in your area – if the water is blueish/green in color, keep the dogs away. 

While things can and do change, it looks like we will be fine on ducks/geese and may have a great upland bird year. Just about 60 days until we start shooting holes in the sky.

One final tip: Roger’s Sporting Goods out of Liberty, Missouri has great deals on shotgun shells. They also offer free shipping for case lots. Real good selection and their prices can’t be beat. I just got a load of camo netting from them for the blinds and usually get our shells there each fall. If you’re flying in you can have them delivered here or we can also pre-order from our dealer in town and we will pick them up before you arrive.

Have a great 4th. Be safe, work those dogs.

Dan & Jeanie

Prairie Smoke Ranch






---- On Tue, 27 Jun 2017 08:36:55 -0400 Dan Sobieck <dan@prairiesmokeranch.com> wrote ----

Hi Marc: Thanks for the inquiry. We will not take 2018 bookings until January, and then our existing clients will have first choice of slots.  Most of our bookings are return business.

That said, early or late season are most productive for ducks and geese; mid-season best for cranes, pheasants and upland birds, late season for snow geese and swans.  Our duck hunting is wholly weather-dependent -- the worse the weather the better the shooting.  

Our operation is unique in a couple ways -- we hunt right here on-site and harvest a wide variety of ducks -- over a dozen species. Many of our clients bring birds home for mounting. And secondly we cater to family groups.  Our hunts are semi-guided in that all decoys and blinds are furnished and in-place but you hunt how and when you wish with your own dogs.  You lease the entire ranch so you set the pace.  Not a lot of drama -- just hunting like the good old days. We live on-site to provide any support needed.

We may have an early season slot opening up in 2017 due to a work conflict with one of our established clients.  If interested please let us know. Regardless of where you hunt we encourage everyone to experience a hunt here on the Missouri Coteau, the home of classic waterfowling.  

Any other questions let us know.


Dan & Jeanie

Prairie Smoke Ranch

Spring News -- 2017
2017 Waterfowl Framework

Add a comment

Email again: