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by Frank Richardson

(scroll down to the bottom of the page for the recipe)

I had to read the email I got from Dan Kidder at least three time before the reality of what it said finally sank in.

Dan is the managing editor of Sportsman’s News, and his email had been sent to inform me that I had been selected as the grand prize winner of their latest story writing contest – good for a three-day, four-night hunt for pheasants and grouse in South Dakota with Bad River Bucks and Birds!

I had never been pheasant hunting before, but as a child I remembered all of the tales my late father would tell me of pheasant hunts he went on in Kansas. I was not sure exactly what to expect, but it sure sounded like a fun hunt – especially if I could hunt in snow for the first time, as I hoped.

I made arrangements for my airline tickets, as well as booking an additional day of hunting with Bad River – hoping to be able to fit in a day of goose and duck hunting after the hunt with the Sportsman’s News crew was finished.

The Sunday morning after Thanksgiving I was at the Tallahassee airport, and half a day later I was being picked up at the Pierre, South Dakota airport by Brett Waibel, who runs Bad River Bucks and Birds.

Before we could even get out of the airport, we saw several pheasant roosters running around near the runways!

After stopping in town for ammunition, we made the short drive to the ranch, and I asked Brett what there was to do for entertainment in the area, other than hunting. “Well, there’s a woman behind every tree, so it’s quite entertaining out here!” he quipped.

The humor behind his statement was that there was not a tree to be seen! I was amazed at how beautiful the landscape was, even though it was almost completely devoid of trees. The few trees I did see were in small creek bottoms or planted “shelter belts.” The rolling hills and farm land looked like nothing I had ever seen.

Once we arrived at the ranch, I was shown to my room and the rest of the lodge. As I took it all in, it was very clear I would not be “roughing it” during my stay at Bad River! Each room was decorated with a different outdoor-related theme – I was staying in the Labrador room.

After unloading my gear and clothing, I made my way over to the lodge, where Brett introduced me to his brother Cole, who would be our guide while Brett guided another group of hunters.

My jaw dropped at the size of the whitetail and mule deer mounts on the wall. I also stared wide-eyed at the many mounts of pheasants, as well as grouse and prairie chickens.

Later that evening I met Kent Danjanovich and Dave Ressling from Sportsman’s News, along with the rest of their hunting group. After a delicious dinner and getting to know the guys I would be hunting with for the next few days, I headed back to my room for the evening. The excitement was building, and I could not wait until my first hunt the next morning.

After a hearty breakfast, Cole had us load up on the “short bus” to ride to our hunting destination. The “short bus” was an old school bus that had been converted for hunting purposes.

After all of the hunters were on, Cole’s black labs jumped in, and we were on our way. Once again, I couldn’t help staring at the strange, almost treeless scenery that included rolling hills covered in agricultural fields highlighted by glimpses of several mule deer, whitetails and piles of pheasants along the way.

At each stop, Cole would first drop off “walkers,” before he or another hunter would drive the bus and a couple of other hunters to the end of the field to be “standers.” I quickly realized that it was much easier to be a “stander” than a “walker,” after I proceeded to walk through a 200- to 300-acre field planted in some sort of grain.

I was concerned about being able to correctly identify the roosters from the hens (as hens were off-limits), but after I watched a few birds take off I quickly found it was easy to pick out the roosters by their longer tail feathers and bright red heads.

I was amazed at the number of pheasants that would flush as the walkers pushed their way through each field. There were some fields where hundreds of birds would take to the sky. We even jumped a few deer while doing some of the pushes. Watching the Sportsman’s News crew videotaping made it evident this was not their first pheasant hunt!

By the time the morning’s hunt was finished I had shot my limit of roosters, thanks to the hard work of Cole and his black labs. As we headed back to the lodge for lunch, I found myself a little disappointed that the day’s hunt was over. But, I was mistaken.

During lunch, Cole told us we would be hunting sharptail grouse during the afternoon. Late in the evening, we loaded back into the short bus with Cole, who dropped us off at a large agricultural field that he said grouse flew into each evening.

As the sun began to fall low in the sky, a couple of grouse flew by me. On the third shot from my Remington, one finally went tumbling to the ground. While it was the last one to come by me, I really enjoyed hunting them.

That evening, we had some quite tasty appetizers – grilled pheasant bites wrapped in bacon. As I was enjoying those, I asked Cole about some of his favorite ways to cook pheasant. He told me several different recipes, but the one I found most tempting was a pasta dish he mentioned.

The following morning it was noticeably colder, but still no snow. I added another layer of clothing, but was taking it off by mid-morning. All of that walking had a way of warming you up, even though it is well below freezing!

After the morning hunt, the other hunters decided to stay at the lodge to avoid the cold, but I told them that I could enjoy warmth back in Florida just about any time, but didn’t get the opportunity to freeze my butt off hunting grouse very often.

So, I bundled up in as much clothing as I could get on, and had Cole drop me off at the same field we had hunted the previous evening. As Cole and the short bus disappeared in the distance, the wind picked up, and I was beginning to think I should have stayed at the lodge!

As I sat there with my teeth chattering, I looked to my left and saw several grouse flying parallel to the field. As they flew into range, I brought the Remington to my shoulder and fired three times.

To my amazement, three grouse fell to the ground! While two hit the ground dead, one got back up and tried to run off. I tried frantically to get my frozen fingers to load another shell. Despite the thick gloves I had on, I was finally able to get two shells in and stop his escape on my second shot. I now had my limit of grouse for the day, and was more than happy I had made the decision to hunt in the cold weather. I was even happier when I saw Cole coming to pick me and my birds up for the evening!

The next morning, I got my wish of getting to hunt in snow. As I sloshed through the wet slush, I found myself thankful that we only had a few inches of snow on the ground! The landscape changed completely, the walking was much tougher, but I really enjoyed getting the opportunity to hunt in the snow, and we once again shot our limit of roosters.

As the Sportsman’s News gang loaded up for their next destination, I looked forward to hunting some geese or ducks. Unfortunately, the farmers that own the fields where Cole usually goose hunts reported there were no birds, so we would be wasting our time. While I was disappointed at not being able to waterfowl hunt, I consoled myself with an extra day of pheasant and grouse hunting!

Friday morning, as Cole took me to the airport, I told him it may have been my first time pheasant hunting, but it wouldn’t be my last! I had an absolute blast hunting pheasants and grouse, and would like an opportunity to pursue the monster bucks of South Dakota.

For more info on Bad River Bucks and Birds, visit www.badriverhunts.com or see ad on this page.

Back at home with plenty of pheasant and grouse in the freezer, I decided to give the pheasant and pasta a try. I substituted pheasant for chicken in a meal that I have cooked at least once per month for the last couple of years.

Recipe

Pheasant (Chicken or Quail) and Fettuccini

Ingredients:

• Pheasant, quail, or chicken (boneless fillets of breast);

• Sportsman’s Gold Seafood Citrus marinade (www.sportsmansgold.com);

• Fettuccini (I keep it simple and use the pasta/sauce in a bag. I prefer the Publix brand Fettuccini with Butter & Herb sauce).

Instructions:

Place the pheasant, quail, or chicken in a skillet on medium heat.

As the meat begins to turn white, flip it to avoid burning. After flipping a second time, add Sportsman’s Gold Seafood Citrus marinade.

Turn the heat on the meat down to low, to keep from burning the marinade and to slow the cooking.

Place the pasta in boiling water and follow the cooking instructions for the pasta you selected. This usually takes about 7-10 minutes, after which the meat will be finished cooking.

The total cooking time for this meal is less than 20 minutes, which includes prep time. For more on Sportsman’s Gold Marinades and Injectables, see ad on page 69.