November, 2003

ne of the most memorable experiences I've had the fortune of living was a three-day, four night pheasant hunt at Echo Valley Ranch in Wessington Springs, South Dakota. It was a mid-November trip in 2003, and three friends and I drove all day and night from east central Texas to get there.

We were pulling Pat's 10-hole Deerskin dog trailer behind his big ole' Ford crew cab pickup with my two yellow Labs, Mason and Kitty, Pat's two curly-coats, What and Why, and Doug's handsome flat-coat, Sauncho. Bob Featherston was the only one in our group with any kind of sense. We didn't hold it too much against him though.

We arrived at Mitchell, South Dakota about 5:30 am, just in time for eggs and pancakes at a local truck stop.The ground was covered with a fresh coat of snow, 4-5 inches in most areas, and It was VERYcold. We figured the weather would help our hopes for a successful trip...which it did.
We had time to burn, so we napped, then goofed around in the parking lot of the Cabela's store until they opened up at 8:00 am. I think we were some of the first of many to open them up that morning.
We each spent too much money there (as far as our wives were concerned), but we had a great time doing it. If you haven't ever experienced shopping at a Cabela's store, you need to do so before you die...that and pheasant hunt in South Dakota.

Click for larger view

We finally made our way out to Echo Valley Ranch, a few miles outside of Wessington Springs, South Dakota. We were greeted by the owners Ron Ogren and his lovely wife, Lynn, and we quickly realized we were in for a very personable and hospitable stay. Ron could easily pass as a friendly, easy going, hard working Texas rancher, and Lynn as the friendly Texas rancher's better half.
But they seem to be perfectly happy as owners of a big ranch in South Dakota, working their many acres for the betterment of the large population of native pheasant they harbor, and having to deal with guys like us that enjoy hunting them.
Anyway, I think they made us a killer lunch and we got a personal tour of the ranch. After the tour, my partners and I voted to nap again. The long 20-hour drive was harder on us old geezers than we thought it would be. We left the ranch headquarters and drove down the road to unpack our bags. I let Mason and Kitty out to stretch their legs and play in the snow a while. Mason could have cared less about the snow, but Kitty thought it was better than ice cream.

Click for larger view
We bunked at an old farm house a few miles from the Ogren's home. The weather was bitter and cold, but the accommodations were warm and pleasant. Rooms were clean and there was plenty of warm water. There was a separate garage that was converted to a game room with a billiard table and TV equipped with satellite service that kept us happy after a good day pheasant hunting. The dogs were happy there as well.
e started our first hunt on Saturday morning in some meticulously designed food plots that were nothing short of awesome. This was the first time my Labs hunted pheasants , so I knew they had a learning curve to go through.

Kitty started out on the first hunt thinking she was there to do nothing but run through the fields having fun. I think I passed up a lot of shots and went thru the batteries on her training collar trying to keep her controlled. Later, I put Kitty up and pulled Mason out of the trailer to work him awhile. Mason did better, and ended up flushing up a pheasant that won me a $10 bet

with my partners for the first bird killed from our group with a single shot, and retrieved to hand. Needless to say, I was very happy. Unfortunately for me, I did not stop there and egged the guys on to continue the bet for the next two days, of which I was not as fortunate. Oh well...we all had a blast. We started hunting the first day around 10:45 am and limited out around 1:50 pm. We took the photo to the right after the first day's hunt. That's me, bottom right.
Click for larger view
ur 2nd day we hunted a nearby farm that is rarely hunted. I think there was a total of around nine thousand acres. This was a very memorable hunt because there were so many pheasants, and such a various array of natural habitat to hunt them in.
We started out in a low ravine between freshly planted winter crops and as we slowly pushed our way through the thick cover the pheasants exploded into flight in waves. It was awesome to watch them. Too bad for us we were not better shots.

Click for larger view

Later that day we made our way to a wooded area known to hold pheasants. It was an area with a cultivated cornfield on one side and a road on the other. Our guide set up some of us as blockers on the outer perimeters as the rest pushed through the cover. We managed to drop some good birds on that hunt. That was pretty cool, and I think all of us will have memories for years to come.
The land owner was most generous, and our guide (Mike) worked his tail off that day keeping us on the birds. It took us the full day to limit out, and by day's end we were worn out. But we ended up a bunch of happy dudes. It's great to have a guide like Mike who manages to make ends meet and fit in so well with the rest of us misfits.
Click for larger view
ur 3rd and last day of hunting was even more enjoyable. We started out hunting some food plots near the ranch house and had lots of fun picking out the roosters. As the morning progressed we moved on to other food plots and grass fields in the hills above the main ranch house, but the birds shut down on us.
Click for larger view

We moved on and as we did the hunting got better. Mike took us to an area with some food plots nestled between some beautiful rolling hills. We shot a couple birds and then moved on to an area known as the honey hole. The sun was setting fast and we had to move quickly. As we entered the field, the pheasants started exploding in all directions. The further we pushed through the more birds we flushed. We must have had six dogs working simultaneously, and all were either pointing, flushing or retrieving. It reminded me of a Grand Finale at a 4th of July fireworks exposition. Roosters were flying everywhere. We limited out and each of us had a story to tell.

On the drive out Mike noticed a spectacular sunset and stopped to let us take some photos to take home. I took some and would like to share them with you. Click on the images below for larger views.
I've always said there are two things in life I want to do before I die; go on a real wild Pheasant hunt, and hunt native Elk. I can't imagine a pheasant hunt any closer to wild than what we experienced at Echo Valley Ranch. If you are searching for the ideal place to hunt wild pheasants, I highly recommend Echo Valley Ranch. Click below for more information.