The odds of a goal becoming an achievement increase exponentially if the goal is actually written down on paper. It only makes sense, then, to apply this to your dream pheasant hunting destinations. So, grab a pencil and piece of paper and start writing down your bucket list of places of where you’d like to watch roosters explode from the cover at least once in your lifetime. If you don’t know where to begin, this list of eight tremendous lodges and/or outfitters is a great place to start.
PRO Outfitters — Geyser, Mont.
With over 150,000 acres of private land to roam, the upland hunting opportunities with PRO Outfitters in central Montana are almost as limitless as those iconic big skies.
Sharp-tailed grouse and Hungarian partridge are the main focus when Montana’s upland seasons start opening in September, but come October, the attention shifts to wild, long-tailed ring-necked pheasants busting from native prairie, grassy draws and edge habitat. Most days, you’ll have the opportunity to shoot all three species with help from a crew of knowledgeable guides and hard-running dogs. And if spending a fall day on a stretch of Montana’s blue-ribbon trout waters is also on your bucket list, PRO Outfitters just so happens to offer an award-winning fly-fishing guide service, too.
After a day of hunting, guests are lodged in individual yurt cabins, complete with private bathrooms and gas fireplaces, and meals are of the fine-dining variety, often incorporating the birds harvested that day. The accommodations are unique, but first-class in every way.
However, the star attractions at PRO Outfitters remain the birds and the habitat, both of which are available in large supply. This is upland bird hunting at its best, set in a landscape that inspires and nurtures a hunter’s soul.
Dakota Pheasant Guide — Mellette, S.D.
With full-service or self-guided options available on over 120,000 acres of incredible habitat spanning parts of both Dakotas, Dennis Foster has purposefully built Dakota Pheasant Guide to accommodate any hunter’s needs, skill level and budget. Whether you’re a wandering freelancer with a great dog just looking for private land to roam, or you’re a novice who might need a guide, Foster’s operation can and will put you on wild birds … lots of wild birds.
Several quaint lodging options close to prime hunting grounds are available, or if you’re on a tighter budget you can find a hotel or other lodging in the pheasant-friendly meccas of Mobridge, Aberdeen, Redfield, Winner or other nearby towns. However, the number of lodging and hunting packages pales in comparison to the number of birds that call Dakota Pheasant Guide properties home. What’s more, each property seems to have its own unique brand and style of hunting. From true crop and cattail grounds to wide-open western vistas in river-break country, Dakota Pheasant Guide has it all. In fact, with so many options available, you’d be doing yourself a favor by adding a couple of Dakota Pheasant Guide’s different hunts or packages to your bucket list.
Halverson Hunts — Kennebec, S.D.
A number of factors have to come together in order to shoot over 2,000 wild roosters on an annual basis on a single ranch, and it’s no accident that this achievement begins and ends with habitat at Halverson Hunts.
Planting, promoting and nurturing cover types that benefit pheasants throughout their entire life cycle is a year-round affair for owner Steve Halverson, who has long worked with Pheasants Forever to construct a habitat plan utilizing conservation programs and conservation-friendly farming practices. The resulting mosaic of grass, trees, winter wheat, grain sorghum and other crops creates the balance of habitat needed to produce the unbelievable number of pheasants found on this fourth-generation family farm and ranch.
The late, legendary outdoor communicator Tony Dean labeled the Halverson operation as one of “finest pieces of pheasant real estate in America.” And if you’re lucky enough to venture there yourself one day, you’ll understand why.
Johannsen Farms Outfitting — Tolstoy, S.D.
A lot of things can be said to describe the pheasant hunting found at Johannsen Farms Outfitting near Tolstoy, S.D., but words really don’t do justice to the experience in store for hunters who visit this 5,000-acre spread of premiere wildlife habitat.
Little happens by accident at Johannsen Farms, where an agricultural and ranching plan has been designed to maximize production, while also protecting and enhancing the operation’s soil, water and other natural resources. The tremendous pheasant numbers a hunter will encounter are the direct result of a carefully managed combination of cover types — shelterbelts, food plots, CRP, cattails and more — that benefit pheasants and other wildlife throughout the year. In addition, staff at Johannsen Farms are careful to monitor the number of roosters harvested each fall, ensuring that a proper rooster-to-hen ratio exists before entering the winter season.
The attention paid to the finest details regarding land, habitat and wildlife management at Johannsen Farms helps create an experience that ranks among the best in South Dakota, and you would do well to mark down this operation your bucket list of dream destinations.
Double P Ranch – Clark, S.D.
Though the Double P Ranch does offer preserve-style hunting, the emphasis on this 3,000-acre operation near Clark, S.D., is on developing a diverse mix of habitat types to support a robust, sustainable population of wild birds. And pheasants won’t be the only bird you see on your visit to the Double P, as Hungarian partridge thrive on the ranch’s extensive edge habitat, and flocks of local and migrating waterfowl fill the skies. In fact, creating an epic combination hunt for upland birds and waterfowl is well within the realm of possibilities at this bucket-list destination.
But the pheasant hunting is what draws folks to the Double P Ranch year after year, especially those who love working in tandem with their own dog. Guests are encouraged to bring their own flushing or pointing dogs, as the cover types and number of birds found on the ranch are ideal for helping tap into a dog’s natural drive. After the hunt, your dog will be housed in a heated kennel room while you enjoy the spectacular accommodations found in one of the Double P’s two lodges.
There are a number of quality full-service pheasant hunting lodges available for hunters to choose from when considering a visit to South Dakota, but the quality of the land and the folks who manage it at the Double P Ranch make this a location worthy of your bucket list.
Lazy J Grand Lodge — Ideal, S.D.
South-central South Dakota is synonymous with world-class pheasant hunting, and the Lazy J Grand Lodge near Ideal is no exception. As an arm of Jorgensen Land and Cattle, the Lazy J features 10,000 acres of prime, managed pheasant hunting real estate, where for more than 30 years the Jorgenson family has redefined what it means to have a “good day” chasing South Dakota’s favorite upland bird. This is a wild-bird-only operation, made possible by a commitment to habitat and sustainable agricultural practices that benefit soil, water and wildlife.
The quality of the hunting experienced at the Lazy J is rivaled only by the way the Jorgensen family takes care of its guests. From lodging to meals, the accommodations are world-class and reflect South Dakota’s “if you’re going to do something, you may as well do it right” approach to just about everything.
The Lazy J Grand Lodge sets a new standard for land management and pheasant hunting in South Dakota and shows how the two can go hand-in-hand. Visitors to this slice of upland bird heaven leave with stories and memories to last a lifetime.
Ringneck Ranch — Tipton, Kan.
The inspiration behind the Ringneck Ranch was a desire to provide visiting hunters an experience that resembles a weekend at the family farm. Perhaps the biggest indication that this hunting operation has been successful at meeting this goal is that 95 percent of the guests come back year after year.
Located near Tipton, Kan., the Ringneck Ranch is part of a fifth-generation homestead that has been hosting hunters for nearly 35 years. True to its mission, tradition is at the heart of a guest’s experience at the ranch, from the hearty country gourmet meals and comfortable accommodations to the knowledgeable and experienced lodge and guide staff who are ready to assist at every turn.
Hunting on the ranch takes place on over 10,000 acres of managed habitat where wild pheasants, bobwhite quail and prairie chickens flourish. The ranch also offers a preserve-style hunt for pheasants, bobwhites and chukar partridge, as well as opportunities to shoot doves and turkeys during their respective seasons. Each guide at the Ringneck Ranch manages a kennel of trained dogs, ranging from Labs to Llewellin setters, but guests are welcome to bring their own dogs and may make use of the clean, secure kennel facility.
When you add it all together, a hunt at the Ringneck Ranch does turn into an experience similar to a weekend at grandpa’s farm: you won’t leave hungry, you’ll have a lot of fun and you’ll want to come back sooner than later.
Cannonball Company — Regent, N.D.
The brand of upland hunting found in southwest North Dakota rivals any other found across the Northern Plains, and the Cannonball Company provides access to 50,000 acres of the best-of-the-best habitat in this corner of pheasant country.
Based in Regent in Hettinger County, Cannonball Company utilizes folks from across this rural community to deliver a unique hunting experience, including working with area landowners to incentivize local habitat improvements that help promote a large, sustainable population of wild pheasants. Hunters can expect to walk through large fields of ground enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, as well as bust through stretches of riparian habitat near the Cannonball River, perhaps even encountering a namesake “cannonball” shaped sandstone concretion like those discovered by the Lewis and Clark Expedition. And when the sky fills with flushing pheasants in numbers almost hard to fathom, you’ll likely agree that your expedition to southwest North Dakota was most certainly worth including on your bucket list.