The Early Days…….
Wild Prairie Lodge, our South Dakota Lodge of Distinction…. enhancing “Little Moran/Double Gun Bird Hunts LLC.” This photo is a view from high above the river breaks along the Moreau River, just west of the Missouri River, it’s our South Dakota home! The lodge is on the eastern edge of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation ( CRST ) near the village of Whitehorse, SD. This link gives wonderful insight to the area we call home: http://www.mprnews.org/story/2009/02/02/whitehorse it describes the significance of Chief Whitehorse and how the village was named.
I first came to Whitehorse in 2011 working with prairie dog hunters where prairie dog towns dotted the landscape. Wild Prairie Lodge sits in the middle of a sea of endless prairie, from here we hunt in every direction with June being or prime prairie dog season with a brief hiatus before our bird hunting begins in mid-September, the mainstay of us being here.
I began my career in 1979 as manager of Dakota Hunt Club in Grand Forks, ND where I realized my lifelong dream of becoming a hunting guide. Setting a goal of 5 years in 1984 we, my wife Gayle and son Josh, not yet a year old moved back to the family farm in Minnesota creating Little Moran Hunt Club, named after a small stream that ran through the farm. At the time we barely had 2 nickles to rub together, however through hard work and determination it all came together. We turned an old farm into a small but respected hunt club and shooting preserve starting out with a string of 6 German Shorthairs, Little Moran was born.
A huge turning point was when I started training for Burnt Creek Setters in 1985, training started and finished dogs for clients. Jim Marti had given us a small white English Setter female “Shiner” who developed into a wonderful dog for our sons Josh and Travis as well as a very good grouse dog. While my shorthairs did great on the preserve, Shiner blew them away on grouse and woodcock, so with her help I began guiding club members on the farm, the grouse camp grew from there.
I had done some training for avid grouse hunters who had hunted at the Grand National Ruffed Grouse and Woodcock Hunt in Grand Rapids, MN back in 1986. They convinced me to contact directors of the hunt to become a huntsman, I did, with great success. I guided for the hunt close to 12 years, while doing seminars and demonstrations at the hunt it led me to becoming a consultant for Purina and to work alongside Bob West, a man I had admired when I first met him briefly at a field trial and watched him handle dogs back in 1980 at Arrowhead Hunt Club. It was an incredible privilege to work with Bob and Jim Marti, both wonderful mentors.
In 1987 Double Gun Bird Hunts was created to exemplify the wild bird hunting at Little Moran. The pheasant preserve was in it’s hay day giving us a 8-10 month season and releasing 5,000 birds a year, big for a small family run business. The grouse hunting prime time was very short, hunting from late September through early November, hardly enough to sustain a family, so the 2 businesses worked out great complimenting each other. Over the years many of our grouse hunters sent dogs to us for training as well as buying dogs that fit their hunting style, a win-win for everyone. Hunters would send their dogs in late August/early September for tuning up and to hunt with us in October, then return home to hunt the remaining for the year, offering us a very diverse business. During the same time period I was doing lots of dog training seminars for Purina all across the US from Alaska to Texas, with highlights being the Grand National Grouse/Woodcock Hunt and the Grand National Quail Hunt in Enid OK. What an incredible Journey.
During my tenure with Purina I was privileged to see many beautiful plantations, time honored field trial grounds, lodges and to work with some of the nations foremost trainers and handlers (history makers ) of this wonderful sport. All of it grateful and humbling. Perhaps my fondest memory was at the Pelican Open Championship in Broomhill Manitoba at Colvin and Mazie Davis’s training camp, incredibly rich with tradition and respect all due to the great dogs of the past and sincere warmth of Colvin and Mazie.
A cowboy I’m not, but did ride many trials. My most memorable was riding into camp one night with Rick Furney, Robin Gates, Colvin and Mazie Davis along with a handful of other handlers and riders along the “old grade” back to camp. Their stories of great dogs, their runs and handlers had me on the edge of my saddle all the way back to camp. I envisioned the runs of so many great Champions who ran these grounds, the birds and history made here….I liken it to a young ball player spending time with some of the all time great ball players and to hear it first hand…for me this was that moment, a moment I’ll never forget. What a great ride!
I have been blessed with a great family, incredible dogs, true friends and guests who have become family since we began in 1984. The stories are non ending, with many years of stories, great dogs and experiences to come, especially with Wild Prairie becoming home of Double Gun and Little Moran.