Outfitter Review On Minnesota Pheasant Hunting Outfitter Stephen Pridal Of Ringneck Range
Outfitter Review On Minnesota Pheasant Hunting
OUTFITTER REVIEW ON
RINGNECK RANGE GUIDE SERVICE
Part 1: THE HUNT
Hunting Minnesota’s Prairies For Wild Roosters With Ringneck Range
By Dan Wennerlind
When most serious pheasant hunters, myself included, plan their trip each fall for wild ringnecks, they head for the hills of South Dakota- and for good reason! Anyone who has hunted South Dakota for pheasants in the last 20 years, be it a preserve ranch or a do-it-yourself trip on public hunting grounds, has most likely been spoiled with hundreds of roosters! At least that has been my experience and now my expectation….
On my trek over to South Dakota each fall from the Twin Cities, I often wonder, what makes South Dakota so much better than Minnesota. It has also been my experience growing up pheasant hunting in Minnesota, that you are lucky to even have an opportunity to harvest a limit of wild pheasants, let alone take full advantage and limit out.
There is however, one area of Minnesota that I had not hunted pheasants before, I’m not sure why, but the Southwest region of the state always boasts to have great numbers of wild birds each year and my good friend and outfitter Stephen Pridal of Ringneck Range Guide Service had been trying to get me down to his properties near Marshall, Mn for several years now. I finally had a free weekend in December this year and had a chance to take Stephen up on his offer.
Minnesota pheasant hunting outfitter Stephen Pridal with HuntTheNorth’s Dan Wennerlind
Before heading out I asked Stephen, how many birds can we actually expect to see this time of year. He assured me that although most of his pheasant hunters come down earlier in the fall, with good reason- being the temps are much better and the cover is easier to hunt before the snow flies. Stephen assured me we would see more wild Minnesota roosters this time of year then we expected. He left it at that.
My two hunting partners Brandon Crowley and Matt Roach arrived with mixed expectations. After all it was December pheasant hunting in Minnesota and even though Stephen has exclusive access to over 15 different family farms in the area, they had been hunting here all season and since he doesn’t plant any pen raised birds on his farms we were just a little skeptical to start. After meeting Stephen at his home farm and getting ready for the first push, he assured us there were still plenty of birds around.
Our first push was a small cattail slough surrounded by a cut cornfield. It definitely looked birdy. Not more then 30 yards in and we starting seeing fresh tracks everywhere. I was impressed. Half way around the slough my dog Brandy got real birdy and up popped a big ole Minnesota rooster. He banked from left to right at 20 yards and gave me a perfect broadside shot. I dropped him with one shot and Brandy made a terrific retrieve! Now that’s what I’m talking about! After a few high 5’s and a quick pic, we kept on going.
The next spot we hit, about a mile away was a much larger slough with a decent sized tree grove at one end. Before we could even get out of the trucks 2 nice roosters and 3 hens walked right in front of us. They didn’t seem too alarmed and simply ran into the tree grove in front of us. We made a quick plan of action. Brandon drove his truck around to the other end of the grove to post while the rest of us pushed the grove to him. It only took about 15 minutes but we jumped over 30 birds out of that one grove. That one really heated up the barrels on a cold December day!
Birds were now flushing everywhere out in the marsh in front of us!!! I think I stopped counting at around 60 birds. This started to remind me of my past South Dakota hunts. We started pushing the larger marsh but the birds were on to us. They kept jumping up about 100 yards in front of us. We sure could have used a couple more guys on this push. By the end, we had to have seen 200 pheasants but only had a couple good shots. The highways of fresh pheasant tracks in that one slough alone were amazing. I don’t think I can honestly say I have seen that many fresh tracks in one spot EVER, MN or SD. It was incredible!
This seemed to be the trend everywhere we went that day. Finally on our last push, we hit a small corn field Stephen had left up, right across from his house. It was getting late so there weren’t many birds left in the cornfield but we started seeing the birds pour into the slough next to it, to roost for the night. I counted 75 birds in about 20 minutes. From there it was a little of a cat and mouse game as this slough wasn’t 100% frozen so we had to watch our step, although it wasn’t very deep it was cold…
After the hunt was over, we checked into the brand-new hotel in town that caters specifically to pheasant hunters AND their dogs, and warmed up with a hot shower. Boy that felt good on the frozen toes! At dinner that night we met Stephen at his favorite little steak house in town and had a chance to relive the hunt that day. Stephen was sure to ask if we had seen more birds then we initially expected before arriving. I told him I was absolutely amazed by the overall bird numbers in the area. I had seen as many WILD Pheasants that day as I have ever seen in 1 day on a wild South Dakota pheasant hunt. The late season hunting did make it a little tougher as the birds were more wary but Stephen was sure to add that, he really likes to have groups of around 6 hunters in camp for his late season pheasant hunts, as it makes it a lot easier to limit out and a lot less work when there are more guys. He even has a special called his “Weekend Warrior Package” for his late season December pheasant hunts, to encourage groups of 6 or more to head down. He only charges $200 per day and the guy who books the trip hunts for FREE. What a deal. And the best part about it, in December the Minnesota limit jumps from 2, to 3 pheasants per day!
The next morning we were up and ready to go… well not too early. Another great aspect of late season pheasant hunting is the opportunity to sleep in. It was great to start the morning with a nice hot breakfast before the hunt, with the 9am start time. Being a die-hard duck hunter this is something I am NOT accustom to. Usually we are up way before we should be, will just leave it at that.
Our first hunt of the day was the only dud we had for the entire trip. Stephen took us to a low area with some brush and trees that he said the birds really like to roost in earlier in the season. However, with the recent snow in the area, the low lands had filled in with some deep snow drifts. Traditionally this was one of Stephens most productive spots. But he hadn’t hunted it in weeks so we had to give it a shot. After not seeing hardly any tracks we got out of there in a hurry. There were too many other good spots to hit.
The next spot was what I would normally expect to see in South Dakota.
It was a long tree grove full of evergreens surrounded by a cut corn field. Just what the doctor ordered. My friend Matt and I drove to the other end with the trucks and posted while Stephen and Brandon made the push with their two labs. It didn’t take long until there were roosters flushing out the sides. I heard Matt banging away on the far side as that’s the direction most of the birds busted out. It was a nice quick hunt and we got the job done.
The next spot had even more birds then the last. It was a long slough with cut corn on either side. We had Matt post about a ½ mile up, while the three of us pushed the slough to him with the dogs. This hunt turned out to be the best one of the trip. We had roosters popping up about every 50 or 60 yards throughout the entire hunt. The dogs were going crazy. What a blast!!!
With only a couple birds left to get to limit out, Stephen took us to one last spot. It was an old gravel pit. I have to say I wasn’t super excited about it initially, but Stephen told us to trust him. We parked about a ¼ mile away and walked in. Stephen had the three of us walk around the perimeter and spread out up top, while he took his trusty lab down into the middle. It didn’t take long until there were roosters flushing everywhere. We all had excellent shots and were all successful!!! It was the perfect end to the perfect day.
This was definitely a hunt to remember. I told Stephen, I never would have imagined that there were that many pheasants in Minnesota, ANYWHERE! It truly was a South Dakota caliber wild pheasant hunt right here in the great state of Minnesota!
Part 2: THE REVIEW
|OUTFITTER KNOWLEDGE / PERSONALITY||Score||5 / 5|
Stephen grew up in the area and has many family farms at his disposal for each group. He is a down home – Good ole boy’. He made sure the hunt was fun and exciting throughout the trip and was able to accommodate our needs. We really enjoyed our time with Stephen. It was evident that he has a passion for hunting roosters and pleasing his clients! 5 / 5!
|QUALITY OF EQUIPMENT USED||Score||5 / 5|
Although there is not much equipment used during a traditional pheasant hunt, Stephen has a professionally trained and seasoned retriever to assist in flushing and finding the birds. Also, the private land we had access to throughout the trip was fantastic! 5 / 5!
|OPPORTUNITY TO TAKE GAME||Score||5 / 5|
The overall quality and quantity of wild Minnesota roosters that we saw and hunted during our trip was incredible! If dropped out of a plane into this area, most hunters would guess they were hunting some of the best properties of South Dakota. We all had multiple opportunity to harvest a limit of big, late season roosters. It was really that good! 5 / 5!
|QUALITY OF MEALS AND LODGING||Score||4 / 5|
The local hotel where Stephen has his hunters stay is located within a few minutes of the hunting grounds. It is a new hotel and caters to hunters and their dogs. There is a hot tub and pool and local restaurants that serve great food. Stephen is very helpful in making reservations and assisting in the best places to eat in town to make the most of your trip! 4 / 5!
|HUNT PACKAGES AND ADDITONAL FEES||Score||4 / 5|
Stephen normally charges $245 per day per hunter which is a very fair rate with as much land access and the number of birds on his properties. In our opinion this is a much better option then spending $30 per bird at a Game farm hunting pen raised birds for Minnesota residents. Stephen said he has hunters that come every year from around the country! Stephen also runs specials from time to time and is currently offering a $50 discount for groups of 6 or more hunters for the 2020 season. 4 / 5
|OVERALL QUALITY OF THE TRIP||Score||5 / 5|
Overall the quality of our hunt with Stephen was second to none. All three of us had a blast, all of our dogs got great work and for a late season pheasant hunt for all wild birds I don’t know of a better place in Minnesota to go! Great job Stephen!!! 5 / 5!
|Overall We Scored Ringneck Range A 28 Out Of 30 Giving Them An “A” Rating. We Would Not Hesitate At All To Refer Stephen To Anyone Looking For A World Class Minnesota Pheasant Hunt!||Final Score||28 / 30|
Part 3: Booking Information
Contact Information For: Ringneck Range
Outfitter: Stephen Pridal