Since opening in 1992 in Gettysburg, South Dakota, Paul Nelson Farm has established a reputation based on impeccable service, quality accommodations, gourmet food and outstanding pheasant hunting. The place is best described as a five-star, all-inclusive resort with a pheasant hunting emphasis. With repeat business approaching 98 percent, they must be doing something right. Over the years, Paul Nelson Farm has catered to celebrity clients including former Vice President Dick Cheney and the Denver Bronco’s John Elway, among others.
Tom Pero and Kate Holliday on a flushing pheasant at Paul Nelson Farm.
On my first trip there in 2009 I had joined then South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds for a day in pursuit of ringnecks. My most recent trip was December 2015. It started with a flight from California to Pierre, South Dakota where my daughter Kelly and I were met at the airport by a lodge representative. That evening, our hosts’ Paul and son Erik Nelson joined us for dinner and spent some time reviewing the hunting program that would unfold over the next three days. During our visit we discovered that the dinner menu included aged prime rib, pheasant in mushroom sauce, juicy rib-eye steaks and all the trimmings. The incredible meals were complemented by a selection of quality wines.
The next morning dawned bright, clear and cold. After a delicious and hearty breakfast we grabbed our gear and jumped into a converted school bus for a 10 minute ride. The hunts take place close to the main compound where the cover is a mixture of corn and milo food plots, shelter belts and native cover enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program. With its sloughs and wetlands you have some of the best pheasant habitat anywhere.
Derek Nelson and Kelly Kramer with pheasants taken at Paul Nelson Farm.
Paul Nelson Farms encompasses about 5,500 acres, of which 100 percent is dedicated to pheasants and pheasant hunting. Their 15 guides has a dog or two of their own, mostly Labrador Retrievers, along with a few Springer Spaniels. The walk and block hunting technique is used and the close-working Labs and Spaniels are well suited to the task.
Our first field was a jumble of milo stalks, wild sunflowers and weeds. We tackled the tangle in the grand tradition of American pheasant hunting. A few people, generally the bravest or the laziest, serve as blockers at the end of the field to cut the birds off before they fly completely out of range. The walkers form a line that pushes through the field behind the dogs, catching the flushing pheasants.
In reality, birds squirt out between the two groups, double-back on the walkers, sneak past the blockers without flushing and generally frustrate everyone involved. But when things go according to plan, the walkers and blockers come together, pheasants flush within gun range, people shout “Rooster!” birds plummet to the ground and dogs are sent to retrieve. It's one of the truly exciting spectacles of American upland bird hunting!
Our three-day stay included impeccable service, friendly staff, great accommodations, exquisite food, excellent dog work and hard flushing roosters. As Kelly and I drove away from Paul Nelson Farm heading for the airport, she looked back in the rear view mirror and said, “It doesn't get any better than this.”
I couldn't agree more, as you’ll see for yourself…
Gary Kramer is a photographer/writer based in Willows, California. Having traveled to 57 countries in search of fishing, hunting and photographic opportunities, he is among the most traveled outdoor journalists in the world. He has published five books, hundreds of articles and thousands of photos. His latest book, “Game Birds – A Celebration of North American Upland Birds” – is a 256-page coffee table book with 384 color photos that is the most comprehensive book ever written on all 34 game birds found in the US and Canada. Postpaid author signed copies are $65. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org, 530-934-3873 or visit his web site at www.garykramer.net.