By Kent Danjanovich
South Dakota is in many a hunter’s frequent dreams. Pheasants can be seen flying in every direction, seemingly endless grain and corn fields on the horizon with hidden washes holding not only bird numbers that are mind boggling, but also some of the best whitetail and mule deer racks in the country. Throw in a little varmint hunt for good measure and you have the ultimate variety South Dakota outfitter, Bad River Bucks and Birds.
Bad River Bucks and Birds is located on the 100 year old Hermann Ranch in Draper, South Dakota. With 20,000 acres of rolling terrain suited perfectly for upland birds, deer and a farmer’s worst nightmare…prairie dogs, you won’t find a better place to quench your thirst for throwing some lead at a wide variety of targets on almost a year round basis.
Our first visit to Bad River Bucks and Birds was in the last week of May for a prairie dog hunt with hunt manager and head guide Brett Waibel. After settling in at the lodge, we headed out to our spot for the day. Benches and rests were provided, along with a seemingly endless number of targets for the quick power of our .223 Weatherby’s. We had the opportunity to fire 200 to 300 rounds a day at distances that were only obstructed by our own abilities, not from lack of chances. We were even able to witness the feat of 74 year old Roger Busing posting a confirmed kill at 1263 yards!
Prairie dog hunting has become a big sport for shooting enthusiast, especially in the farm- land regions of the upper Midwest and offers a great opportunity to hone your sharpshooting skills while helping the local farmers work on the numbers of pesky ‘dogs’. While we were there, Brett set us up for a mid-December pheasant hunt, when the numbers would be big and the opportunities endless and we later found his advice to be right on.
From the moment we exited from the freeway, we started seeing birds in every direction. It was hard to keep my hunting partners, Bruce and Randy Danjanovich (yes, a family affair) at bay on our short drive to the lodge. This was their first visit to South Dakota after years of dreaming of the day. And, I will just say they weren’t disappointed!!!
After settling in at the lodge, we headed out for a quick afternoon hunt. It didn’t take long for the roosters to start flying. We jumped not only hundreds of pheasants, but even had a covey of about thirty chukars flush on the edge of a weedy thicket, thrilling Bruce and Randy who are avid Utah chukar hunters. A quick limit of birds filled the back of the truck and we headed back to the lodge to enjoy a warm beverage and a luscious prime rib dinner. Needless to say, we all had a restless night, dreaming of the events of the days hunts to come.
Day two arrived with great expectations and a new hunting partner from Alabama, Brock Ray, our partner in Sportsman’s News Television. After a great breakfast, we calmly informed Brock about what he was soon to behold and headed for another of Brett’s favorite spots on the ranch. Brett was joined by his dad Randy and brother Cole as our guides for the day. We pushed and blocked several corn fields and tree lines, resulting in literally hundreds of birds flushing in every direction. The pointing labs never missed a beat in doing a great job of flushing and retrieving our “wild” birds all morning long. After a quick lunch, we headed out in search of grouse, in the form of prairie chickens and sharp-tail.
Sundown found us glassing the rolling prairie for the “bucks” part of Bad River Bucks and Birds. With 20,000 acres of ranch land, 70,000 acres of adjacent Mathews family farmland and 135,000 acres of Mr. Ted Turner’s rolling hills, we started to spot deer all over. Hundreds of deer started popping up everywhere, heading to the fields for an evening feast. Big mulies in the 200 class even started getting Brett’s blood flowing and of course, ours as well! The river bottoms area held lots of whitetail with a glimpses of a few tree stands that had been used during the rifle and bow seasons for those lucky enough to draw a tag for the area.
After an evening of watching a little football and a little pool and poker, we settled in for the night. Morning quickly came and we again headed out to more areas of the ranch in search of more pheasants and our first encounter with the, shall I say “wild” grouse of the plains. We did have the good fortune of bagging a couple of chickens and sharp tail on this day, but it certainly was not what you would call easy. They truly made us work for every opportunity, but it was well worth it when we spread out our beautiful bag of what South Dakota is all about.
Our stay with Brett, Randy and Cole at Bad River Bucks and Birds was truly a great opportunity. They run a great operation in every way. They have everything it takes…a great lodge fully stocked with everything possible, ten very comfortable rooms with accommodations for 20 hunters, great food at every turn and game of about every variety possible to make your visit one of those once in a lifetime events. And, one word of advice…Don’t come to Bad River thinking that you will be shooting pen raised birds, released the morning of your hunt. These birds are the poster child’s for wild South Dakota pheasant hunting and will test the best the hunting industry has to offer.
Bad River Bucks and Birds…visit them on the web at www.badriverhunts.com or give them a call at 605-669-3440. And, watch for our trip to Bad River on Sportsman’s News Television DVD’s at all Sportsman’s Warehouses this fall.