In 1972, Lester D. Flake accepted a faculty position in the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences at South Dakota State University, promising his wife, Marcia, they would only stay for a couple of years until he found a position back west closer to family. Thirty-one years later, Les retired and reluctantly made good on his promise. South Dakota, the people, the landscape, the wildlife, turned out to be so much more wonderful than he had anticipated. In so many ways it was a paradise! Herein, Les shares the beauty and spirit of South Dakota with memories of places, people, pointing dogs, and upland game birds. To be sure, upland bird hunters can learn much from the book but it is t just a hunting book. Unusual memories such as sinking duck boats, a scary campsite visit from a Charles Manson look alike, a pet mallard and a Brittany, and grand-children tossing chickens into a swimming pool as a research experiment add diversity and humor to the book. The serious message quietly integrated in many of the stories is the importance of protecting wetlands from drainage and native grasslands and fragile soils from further tillage if the South Dakota paradise is to be kept alive.
Les Flake is Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Department of Natural Resource Management, South Dakota State University (SDSU), Brookings, where he primarily taught ornithology, wildlife management, and waterfowl ecology until retirement in August 2003. He has authored or coauthored numerous papers in professional research journals along with four books. He received an M.S. in Biology from Brigham Young University in 1966 and, in 1971, a Ph.D. in Zoology from Washington State University. Since retirement, Les has been living in Springville, Utah with his wife Marcia. He has returned to South Dakota each fall for two to three weeks of upland bird hunting, visiting with friends, and work with co-authors on a series of three wildlife books and a technical report for the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks (SDGFP). Les is an avid upland game bird enthusiast and long-time gun dog owner and has hunted South Dakota for over 41 years.