The American Bison roamed over an enormous amount of territory in the country before any settlements moved west. The numbers were estimated at 30 to 60 million, and the herds were described as endless. Now I needed to find where I could hunt, and what the cost would be. In addition, I wanted to be guided, lodged and fed. Hopefully there would also be a good processor that was accustomed to working with this type of meat nearby. A tall order, but if you want to have a good time and have results, you need to be taken care of.
Starting in Wyoming, I moved east. The license fee in Wyoming was $1,400 and I found no private ranches that either raised buffalo commercially or hunted them. In Nebraska, the pickings were totally non existent. I thought for sure this state would have some hunting on the big private ranches of the sand hill country across the northern counties of the state. Nothing turned up. I will probably get a nasty e-mail from someone on this finding. If so, they should check their search engine capability, because I found nothing. I did not search Kansas or Oklahoma because to me the buffalo were a high plains animal and so I moved north to South Dakota.
The hunting opportunities started in the western part of the state and moved across the northern half almost to Sioux Falls. This was getting close to home and is country and people I am familiar with. South of Aberdeen, I found what appeared to be a good fit with Northern Plains Outfitters. (http://www.northernplainsoutfitters.com/buffalo-hunts/) I traded e-mails in June with them, and reviewed their literature. For references I called the bait store in Webster, SD, and asked them what they knew. I have been a customer there for 15 years as fishing the glacial lakes is a ritual each year. They came back with an outstanding reference, and I made a commitment for January.(Their phone is (605) 380-9971)
|The main lodge. The inside is outstanding|
When the time came, the weather was horrible. I believe the South Pole was warmer and they were having gale winds with wind chill temps down to 50 below. Forget it, I am not going to drive up there with that kind of weather. I kept in touch with Shannon, one of the owners, and kept watching the weather forecasts from my location in Iowa. I made a call on January 10th to see what was forecasted locally and compared it to other forecasts. They all concluded. There was a window of opportunity where the temps would rise with light winds and a balmy 15 degrees. Not bad, and I took it. On Sunday morning off I went to Athol, SD with the hunt on Monday.
|Looking from the back to the front of the dining room and lounge area.|
Athol, SD is just west of Watertown and it was an easy drive. Arriving at the lodge, I was really impressed with the facilities. I met four hunters from Wisconsin, and their opening remarks were, “You will have one of the best times you have ever had with the two owners. They will go out of their way to make sure you have success and are pleased with the service. Plus, they are really great people.” Wow, that was some recommendation, and it was totally unsolicited. This proved out to be more than 100% true.
|Looking from the front to the back of the dining room. The kitchen is seen. When they are in full swing with the bird and deer hunters, cooks and guides are working to make sure you have a good experience.|
That afternoon and into the evening the four hunters filled me in on how to do it. Walk and stalk would be the order of the day. I would search initially in a four wheel drive truck until a buffalo could be spotted. Then it would be stalking the animal in wide open country.
|My bedroom with room for a total of three hunters. I believe the main lodge can sleep a maximum of 12 hunters.|
I looked around the lodge and the facilities were outstanding. I would have a private room with my own bathroom and the food was extremely good. Meeting Shannon and Trent, the owners, proved to be everything the Wisconsin hunters told me. These men want your business and will work to make sure you have a good experience. Upon meeting Shannon and Trent, I hit it off with them immediately. You can always tell right away when you meet someone how things will go, and we became instant friends. After all, this is South Dakota, and the people are some of the finest you will ever meet.
|Additional rooms are available in two different buildings.|
Their business is mainly pheasants and deer. During their peak season, they will have 30 to 40 hunters weekly providing guides and dogs. Plus, they butcher and package everything for the hunter, so all he has to do is shoot and enjoy life at the lodge.
|More rooms. Noticed the ground behind this building. You are in the wide open plains of South Dakota.|
After dinner we visited about what to expect the next day and what time to be ready. On Monday, January 13th, I will hunt for “Tatanka.” This is the Sioux term for buffalo, and it means” Big Hump.”