North America has some incredible hunting environments, yet few are as unique as the fringe of the Badlands National Park on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. I first saw the Badlands as a youngster on a cross-country road trip and vividly remember the appearance of those “moonscapes,” well before Armstrong first set foot on the lunar surface.
Little did I realize that someday I’d get to hunt in the same majestic buttes and pinnacles that spilled from the park into lands owned by the Oglala Sioux on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Deer tags are very limited for non-tribal members and I felt fortunate to have one, yet even more motivated by the majestic geography that surrounded me.
At first glance, one might question how any animal can survive in such bleak terrain, yet between the steep monuments and towering buttes lay a myriad of coulees, often choked with cedar, which provides excellent protection from the blazing sun of summer and the howling storms of the dark months. Although deer may appear openly vulnerable when passing over the camel-colored clay, they’re rarely more than a few bounds from safety, whether the predator is human or a pack of coyotes on the prowl. Binoculars are a hunter’s best friend in this big country, as spotting game a mile away is common; a person can spend an entire morning following a buck that has suddenly moved on.
For two full days my Sioux guide and I scoured the landscapes for a good mule deer and by the second sunset, luck didn’t seem on our side. The next morning, however, I spotted a big muley chasing a doe and made a long but lethal shot. The buck was a great 5×5, yet the true enjoyment of the hunt was the Badlands terrain and the mystique of native lands. Once encountered, you rarely come all the way back. For hunting information, contact oglalasiouxparksandrec.net/