I was recently invited to go to South Dakota pheasant hunting, and what a trip it was. Kirstie Pike the President of Prois Hunting Apparel, Keli Van Cleave, and I went as Prois Hunting Apparel Pro Staff members and were treated to outstanding hospitality by the owners and staff of Pheasant Phun at the Olsen Ranch in Hitchcock, South Dakota.
Dave Olsen is the proprietor and the head wrangler of the operation. Dave's mom, Annie, and his father, Art are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. The film crew of SSOutdoor Adventures was also there filming for an upcoming show.
We got to the Olsen's J Bar Ranch early on a Friday morning. We were received with a warm hearty breakfast and were given the game plan and instructions for the day. Anxious to begin, we headed out to the garage for the safety talk and a thoughtful prayer by Dave for our good day.
The trucks were warming up and we ladies were supposed to ride in a nice warm, cushy dually. As we walked outside to the waiting vehicles Kirstie, Keli and I spotted a huge beast of a machine sitting among the vehicles that were not being warmed up. Almost simultaneously we asked if we could take the huge retired military radio truck. Dave laughed, then realized that we were serious and was more than willing to let us hunt in the beast. When will men understand how much we ladies love big trucks? We climbed in and as we sat down for our ride, all got a huge chuckle at our seats. The beast was well outfitted in antique church pews.
As we bumped and rolled along the road we got to know the other hunters and the wonderful dogs who were to be our helpers. Charlie and his delightful, young, yellow Lab Bailey, Bob and Zoe, Gerard and Titan and our host Dave with Grizzly and Chopper.
It was cold that morning and the birds seemed to be flying out way further than I was comfortable shooting. I was using a small 20 gauge that I hadn't shot much before, so I didn't want to take ridiculous shots. A few birds were harvested that morning, but not by me. Keli Van Cleave was hunting with her bright pink bow and we were all curious to see if she could actually hit a flying bird with it. I didn't know Keli well and was skeptical.
We headed back for a hearty, hot meal of chili and some of the most wonderful Cheese-Broccoli soup I have ever tasted. I knew my diet was heading out the door. We took our belongings up to our loft bedroom and were shown the lay of the 'bunkhouse.' The bunkhouse was a converted barn that slept around 18 people very comfortably. There was a warm, inviting sitting area, with a long bunkhouse dining room. To look at it from the outside it still looks like a working barn, but once inside it is clean, luxurious and well-appointed. The view from any window is beautiful and the sunrise, breathtaking.
After lunch we went out again and some of the hunters filled their limits. I didn't shoot any birds, but had a great long walk and lots of exercise. Maybe going off my diet at lunch wasn't a total loss.
At dusk, we returned to the bunkhouse and enjoyed a fabulous dinner followed by cocktails and tastings from Dave's wine collection. We chatted with the other hunters there and soon found ourselves getting sleepy. We got ready for bed and once we turned in, found ourselves behaving like we were at an adolescent slumber party. We gabbed and chatted for quite some time before finally falling into warm, deep sleep in our cozy beds.
When the sun came up we were ready to go with a delicious hearty breakfast of pancakes, eggs, biscuits and gravy. We hunted all morning and I took a few shots, but nothing fell. I was a little discouraged and frustrated with myself, but still had a great time. Keli and Kirstie didn't shoot anything either and were also a little frustrated. The men were all able to get birds, so we knew they were out there and plentiful, but we were getting nothing.
Lunch was amazing and the table was set for a special holiday party that was to take place that evening. Kirstie and I were keeping an eye on the weather reports because we had a 14 hour drive home the next day. We learned that a storm was headed our way, but still planned on staying for the party and leaving early the next morning.
We knew that afternoon would be the last time to shoot so we needed to make it a good one. After lunch, we loaded up into the big green beast for the last time. We went to a thicket of trees and began our long walk. The dogs jumped several birds right off the bat and I was never in the right place for a shot. We walked about a quarter mile further and suddenly the woods came alive with pheasants. I pulled up on one as it flew up into a tree. It was hit but needed another shot. I finally bagged one. Then a few feet later another flew up and I shot it.
Anne Vinnola and Kirstie Pike
Out of the corner of my eye I saw a beautiful pheasant fly up through the trees toward Keli. I hollered at her to watch for it and for a few minutes guided her back several feet to where she could see where it had landed. The bird flew up, off of a tree limb, and she stuck it with her arrow. WOW she actually did it! We all cheered and were so excited for her. It was a perfect shot and was her first pheasant taken with a bow. I had never seen anyone shoot a flying bird before. It never occurred to me that it was possible, but Keli sure made a great shot and believers of us all. That was some serious "girl power!"
Kirstie shot two birds and loaded up for another. The dogs were everywhere and each was working hard and fast. In the midst of all of the noise and excitement, two pretty little does ran out and startled everyone.
I was quickly onto my last bird of the day and shot it just as it started to land on a branch. It was wounded and luckily I was able to get to it with the aid of my favorite dog of the weekend, Grizzly.
I had earlier asked Dave to show me a quick way to finish off a wounded bird without wringing its neck. Ever mindful of keeping a bird whole for taxidermy, I know that many hunters get into a bad habit of wringing the neck of a bird and invariably ruin a good mount. Dave showed me to place my thumb in the V of the throat and to press with up with my thumb and my forefinger on top of the head to crush the windpipe. This was a quick and humane way to finish off the bird without damaging the feathers. I also felt it was important to personally know how to finish off an animal as the hunter, and not need to rely on a guide to do it for me.
In the last few minutes of this exciting hunt we all limited out and met our hunting goals for the weekend, Keli, with her bow and Kirstie and I with our shotguns. The happy dogs were all running with their tongues hanging out after a thrilling afternoon. As we all went back to the bunkhouse, we had a lot to congratulate each other about.
Kirstie and I took one more look at the weather and decided to hit the road that night and drive as far as we could. We were going to have to miss the wonderful holiday celebration that Annie and her crew were putting together, but we felt the weather was making it impossible to stay.
If you are in need of some great pheasant hunting, warm hospitality and friendly, welcoming people, give Dave and his family a call. They will make your stay as happy as possible and you may even get a few beautiful pheasants for your table. Kirstie and I decided this will be a place we will return to and bring our families. Once you are there you are treated as family, and somehow, as royalty too. If you need help finding the place call Dave at 605-266-2848 or go to www.pheasantphun.com
. He will leave the lights on for you. Keep an eye out for our show on SSOutdoor Adventures.Anne Vinnola is a dedicated sportswoman. She is a freelance writer and blogger on the outdoors, and co-owner with her husband of the Colorado Institute of Taxidermy Training and Big Timber South Taxidermy Studio. Anne is also a Pro-Staff member of Prois Hunting Apparel.