Wings Of Thunder
Part 1:THE HUNT
Late Season South Dakota Roosters
At Wings Of Thunder Hunting Lodge
By Rick Janes
What an incredible time had by all on a late season pheasant hunt at the Wings of Thunder Lodge near Kimball, SD. President of HuntTheNorth.com, Dan Wennerlind, his 18 month old Chesapeake, Brandy and I met up with some good friends at the lodge and we were warmly greeted by Brad and Jeri Donald, owners of Wings of Thunder. Our first impression was the overall friendliness of the place and how we were made to feel right at home. As we began unpacking after a long journey, Jeri gave us a brief tour of the facility and wow, it is impressive. Perfect for the serious upland bird hunter looking for a relaxing stay combined with a great hunt.
The accommodations were more than adequate, with at least two bunks per room. Many of the rooms can sleep 4-5 with showers and restroom facilities set-up in a country club like arrangements- with more than enough room for comfort. Each “wing” has its own comfortable lounge area and small kitchenette complete with full sized refrigerator and microwave. Everyone picked a room and unpacked. One thing that is really remarkable is that the lodge will accommodate at least 50 hunters without tripping over each other.
The centerpiece of the lodge is the main lounge area where guests are welcome to bring their own libations, relax with a big screen TV, huge bar, and pool table. Many a story from the days hunt is shared over a relaxing beverage. We were fortunate to meet up with a group of four Doctors from Louisiana who would hunt with us the
the next day. They were all great guys who had the option of hunting as their own group or joining ours. We were glad they joined us.
An excellent assortment of appetizers were awaiting our arrival, consisting of browned pheasant breast (I still have to get that recipe), jalapeno, bacon and cream cheese poppers, chips and sliced meats and cheeses. Nobody went hungry and this was just a welcome appetizer. In anticipation of the hunt, I asked Brad what I should expect the next day. He told me that I need to have at least two boxes of shells in my vest at all times. Everyone slept well, dreaming of flushing roosters.
After breakfast the next morning we had a brief safety presentation and we all loaded up into a renovated OD Green school bus (the bird bus) and Brad took us to the first field. The guides are experts at knowing exactly how to position hunters for the best possible action with any given field at Wings of Thunder. On the first push, five walkers with dogs were positioned at one end and I had the enviable position of being a walker-blocker in the first position. When Brad dropped me off he said “load up”.
The rest of the hunters were strategically positioned around the end of the field we were working. Within the first two minutes of the drive birds started flying and it never let up. Fast and furious wing-shooting second to none! And the dogs were unbelievable. Brad’s kennel of labs work as a team and I don’t think we ever lost a single bird. A couple of other hunters brought their own dogs, which is always encouraged at Wings of Thunder. Believe me if you bring your dog, they will get a serious workout.
By noon we had covered four fields as a group, spending who knows how many shells, and the lunch time bell was ringing. We got back to the lodge for lunch, took a number of photos with the groups, and enjoyed a home cooked lunch of cheeseburgers and the best ham and bean soup on the planet. Brad made the announcement that we would be hunting again around 2:00p so hunters had time to relax, catch up anything they had to, and get ready to go again. We hunted a couple more fields in the afternoon and the action just never did let up. There were fast-flying and hardy birds everywhere!
Following the action and plenty of photos the birds were taken to the cleaning facility where Wings of Thunder employees professionally clean your birds. Each bird is numbered and labeled according to South Dakota regulations, and individually frozen for travel.
We Were All
Smiles After A
|Just prior to dinner that night it was decided that a pool tournament would be in order and drawing for teams was underway for the after dinner camaraderie. Shortly afterwards the announcement for dinner was made and we were all treated to Brad’s steaks, made to order on a Traeger pellet grill and all the fixings were served. Delicious! |
That evening the group of four doctors that we had hunted with had to depart. It was great making new friends and we wished them safe travels as they departed with a cooler full of birds back to their homes in Louisiana.
Recapping the day, fun and fellowship with the group continued into the evening and Brad (and my niece Sara) ended up victorious in the round-robin pool tournament. Brad’s table, hmmm…..
At 6:30a Sunday we were up and at it. Breakfast at 8:00a. Another delicious meal prepared and served by the excellent kitchen staff. Around 9:00a we loaded up the group and went to a new area on the 1,800 acres available to Wings of Thunder. What was really impressive was not only the size of the property (three full sections of land) but the diversity of the ground we hunted. Some areas of standing corn, areas of slough, pine trees, dogwoods, and waist-high native grasses. Food and cover are professionally managed to do one thing, and that is hold birds year-round. The birds are absolutely thick at Wings of Thunder. I asked Brad what held the birds year-round. He put it very simply, “because getting shot at or not, they have it made here”. We worked four more fields and again had plenty of action seeing hundreds of birds. The diversity of the cover and the expertise of the guides who seemed to know exactly where the birds would be were impressive.
The most memorable part of he hunt was during the last morning pushing a large area of mixed cover. As we neared the end of the area, the birds just started pouring out of one corner of the thickest dogwood patch imaginable. The dogs were working in a frenzy on the surrounded birds and one of our new compadres, Harold, was posted on the corner. Roosters were flushing high-and-low, left-and right and it was all poor Harold could do to keep shells in his shotgun. Over-and-over you could hear big Brad’s booming, jovial voice shouting “Harold! Rooster!”, “Harold, Rooster!”, “Harold, Shoot!”, “Haaarroollled!!!”. A great time and a great memory sealed.
Wings of Thunder is truly a wing shooters paradise and a gentleman’s hunt. A perfect hunting destination for corporate outings and a great place to bring your clients for a hunt they won’t soon forget.
Part 2: THE REVIEW
|OUTFITTER KNOWLEDGE / PERSONALITY: ||Score||5 / 5 |
Brad and his wife Jeri do an amazing job running the lodge. The lodge was immaculate and the commercial style kitchen with every meal made from scratch really added to the overall experience. The guides and dogs did a FANTASTIC job making sure everyone in the group had ample opportunities at rooster after rooster all day long. It was a very laid back and fun atmosphere. After the hunt Brad and the guides hung out at the lodge with us for a couple cocktails and we even had a fun little pool tournament. All aspects first class - 5 / 5!
|QUALITY OF |
|Score||5 / 5|
On a pheasant hunt there is a limited amount of equipment used. But the fact that they had a nice renovated school bus for us to all be transported together as a group was very easy going. The dogs Brad trains are also amazing I don’t think we lost more than 1 or 2 birds for the entire group all trip. From their, Brad had shells and licenses available on site so we never had to leave the lodge for anything. This is a first class operation! 5 / 5!
|Score||5 / 5|
The fact that we were able to harvest more roosters than we could carry both days was truly amazing. In fact I bet we saw over 500 pheasants in the first drive alone, and trust me they were not all hens! Brad does an amazing job managing the main farm, consisting of 1 square mile (640 acres). With plenty of food and cover the birds never have to leave. Especially late in the season after all the surrounding farms have harvested their crops. As per South Dakota state law- every bird shot on the farm must be replaced, Brad plants half the birds at the end of August and the other half in the spring (all hens) so that the new chicks are raised on the farm and are as wild as possible come hunting season. Trust me we were not kicking birds to get them to fly, these roosters were moving!
|QUALITY OF MEALS |
|Score||5 / 5|
The lodging and meals, in my opinion really made the trip. The newly renovated lodge was virtually brand new. The amenities include: a hot tub, a sporting clays range, a pool table, poker tables, a big screen tv, an onsite fully functional bar and of course the best part- ALL meals made from scratch! Need I say more- 5 / 5!
HUNT PACKAGES AND
|Score||3 / 5|
Brad’s 3 day All Inclusive Hunt package which includes 3 roosters per hunter per day is $1,900. Brad also offers the opportunity to harvest more than 3 birds for an additional fee being they do have a preserve license. With all the amenities included we felt this hut can’t be beat! We gave Brad a 3 / 5 for his rates!
|OVERALL QUALITY |
OF THE TRIP:
|Score||5 / 5 |
Overall every aspect of the hunt was exceptional. There was not one thing I would have changed. I was able to get my young pup on more wild roosters that I could have in an entire season. I was also able to share an amazing opportunity with several close friends and meet several new ones from across the country. I couldn’t have asked for a more personalized and exciting South Dakota pheasant hunting experience! 5 / 5 for sure!! Thanks Brad and Jeri for an awesome experience!
Overall Brad and Jeri scored a 28 / 30 giving them an “A Rating”. We would not hesitate to recommend Wings Of Thunder Hunting Lodge to anyone looking for a World Class caliber South Dakota pheasant hunting experience!
|28 / 30|
COPYRIGHT 2014 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED