By Dawn Faught
Near Hitchcock, SD, thirteen miles from the original Ringnecked Pheasant release location in South Dakota, a country road edged by fields of standing corn leads to Pheasant Phun Lodge. The impressive 15,000 sq. ft. lodge overlooks hillsides waving with tall grass and a cerulean blue pond rimmed with cattails.
Some of owner Dave Olsen’s preserve is farmland where corn and soybeans provide ample food and shelter for birds and excellent hunting opportunities. Thick tangled sorghum is left standing for food and cover from often brutal South Dakota winters.
These practices provide perfect pheasant habitat proven by the ample numbers of iridescent birds strutting about doing their rooster squawk in the glow of the rising sun.
A catastrophic summer storm in 2013 caused extensive damage to their ranch. Grapefruit-sized hail pulverized everything in its path; shredding buildings and crops and killing pheasants and deer. Rather than admit defeat, Olsen built a grand new lodge with spacious suites and cozy rooms. Desiring an authentic South Dakota flavor, he incorporated wood from blue stained Black Hills pine throughout the interior. Relics of the historic 1903 Olsen Ranch add to the ambiance of the rustic interior. The bar, hewn out of reclaimed wood from the Olsen’s 100-year old hip roof barn, is stocked with top shelf liquor and is the perfect place to relax after a long day of pheasant hunting.
Pheasant hunting has been an Olsen family tradition at the Olsen’s OJ Bar Ranch for over 50 years. Dave’s earliest memories are of watching his father Art guide hunters, “Hunting is a celebration of life – it’s about the relationships, the land and the memories of time with my father.” Art passed away in 2017; but Anne, Dave’s mother, enjoys sharing the history of the ranch with guests along with overseeing the intricacies of lodge operations. Amy Crane is Olsen’s fiancé and Olsen asserts, “The person behind the magic - making the lodge and all that it is special for every guest.”
Olsen and his expert guides with well trained hunting dogs are there to make every excursion a pleasure. Catering to small groups, Pheasant Phun offers world class wild ringneck pheasant hunting. “Our attention to detail and commitment to creating a very personal experience puts us in the elite class of global wingshooting opportunities. We look forward to helping you plan your time in the field and customizing a perfect - and perfectly affordable - hunting package for your group.”
After a day of hunting in the fresh air, hungry and thirsty guests gather at the rustic bar to enjoy scrumptious appetizers and drinks. The air reverberates with laughter as stories are swapped, reliving everyone’s favorite moments and shots of the fine day. Soon all gather around the supper table and enjoy a wonderful feast of ribeye steaks grilled to perfection, fine wines with apple pie ala mode as desert.