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On The Point featured on Wild Dakota Outdoor Television for hosting a Warriors Never Give Up Pheasant Hunt.

Ill. hunter plans annual Ipswich pheasant hunt

By Elisa Sand | Posted: Monday, November 3, 2014 1:00 am



Ill. hunter plans annual Ipswich pheasant hunt

Eric Hudgens drove into Aberdeen on Sunday on his way to Ipswich for a five-day hunting trip. American News Photo by Elisa Sand


Eric Hudgens is an avid sportsman, but when it comes to pheasant hunting, nothing compares to the number of birds he sees in northeastern South Dakota. So, on the weekend pheasant hunting began in Illinois, Hudgens made his way northwest.

“The culture here is so much more hunter friendly than Illinois,” Hudgens said.


Hudgens arrived in Aberdeen Sunday afternoon, excited to start a five-day hunting blitz at On The Point hunting lodge near Ipswich. He took some time away from his afternoon to visit in Aberdeen before continuing west and concluding his 101/2-hour journey from Rockford, Ill.


His first trip to South Dakota was within a couple years of the hunting lodge opening. The lodge, operated by Harris Swanson and his family, was founded in 1996.


“I always wanted to go to South Dakota,” Hudgens said. “The Swanson family is the reason I come back.” 


His hunting party features a number of sportsmen who annually return to South Dakota from places like Kentucky, Michigan and Texas — many of whom have longer journeys than his 675-mile trek.


Hudgens, an executive vice president for a facility management company, said the time away gives him a chance to decompress. He will hunt pheasants, ducks and geese back home, but enjoys his trips to South Dakota.


“I never miss this one,” he said. “It’s the holy grail.”


Hudgens describes the hunting in Illinois as fair. Illinois state law allows hunting starting from sunrise to sunset until Jan. 8 in northern Illinois and Jan. 15 in southern Illinois.


“I’ll see more in two days here than I’ll see all season there,” he said.


Other popular hunting places for Hudgens is Sandusky Bay in Ohio for ducks and Georgia for quail hunting. Compared to pheasants, Hudgens said quail are “more cooperative” because they stay pinned down and don’t run off like pheasants will.


Accompanying him on his hunts is Lewis, his three-year-old English Setter.


This hunt will be different for Hudgens, who returned to South Dakota each year since the first with his father, who died this past year.


Hudgens said while the terrain of northeastern South Dakota is similar to his home state, the amount of standing water came as a surprise to both him and his dad.



Bonding, healing focus of hunt

By Scott Waltman | Posted: Tuesday, November 26, 2013 1:00 am



Bonding, healing focus of hunt


EDMUNDS COUNTY — About three months ago, Kenny Lantgen Jr. was reunited with his 13-year-old son, Jade. On Monday, they went hunting together for the first time, and the Sioux Falls man got to see his boy bag his first pheasant.

Dad was all smiles as a member of the hunting party welcomed Jade into the fraternity of pheasant hunters by wiping a bit of the bird’s blood on his cheek. Somewhat less enthused was Jade, turning his head away from the blood-stained finger of Vern Boer of Wild Dakota Television, who bestowed the fraternal honor. Eventually, though, Jade cracked a smile. He even left a dab of blood on his cheek for awhile.


This is “the best ever,” Kenny Lantgen said of Monday’s Warriors Never Give Up Hunt for injured soldiers, Vietnam veterans and kids. His comment was made while he walked through a field before his son shot the pheasant. “You couldn’t get any closer bonding with a boy.”


And, yes, even though there were plenty of shots fired and plenty of adults were hunting nearby, Jade did hit the pheasant.


“We can prove he shot that one,” said Boer, who was taking video footage of the hunt for a future episode of “Wild Dakota.”


And so Monday was a special one for Lantgen, an Iraq veteran. As the result of a divorce, he had not been as steadily involved in his son’s life as he had wanted until he assumed custody over the summer. But others appreciated the outing, too, as it provided a chance for them to spend time with fellow soldiers and veterans.


The motto of Warriors Never Give Up hunts is “Hunting, Heroes, Healing,” said co-founder Brett Bastian of Brandon. And there’s an emphasis on the healing, he said. Sometimes, the unseen scars suffered by soldiers take longer to heal than the physical ones.


Monday’s hunt at On The Point lodge southeast of Ipswich drew seven wounded warriors from Fort Riley in Kansas and one from South Dakota, three Vietnam veterans and three kids. Bastian said it was the group’s second hunt, the first being in September near Flandreau.


About 30 veterans, soldiers and kids participated in the two hunts combined, said Bastian, a former member of the Army National Guard. He aims to grow Warriors Never Give Up to serve 100 people next year. Eventually, he’d like to be able to schedule big game hunts.


Bastian said he came up with the idea to create the group about eight months ago during an “inspired moment” while meditating. With help from others, he combined his passions for the outdoors and honoring those who serve in the military.


“This is a pleasure,” said Ken Kreutzmann, who lives in the Twin Cities and is the father of Karl Kreutzmann of Sioux Falls, another of the Warriors Never Give Up founders. “It’s fun, the weather is perfect and it’s good shooting.”


Ken Kreutzmann is a Vietnam veteran who has hunted pheasants in central South Dakota previously.


Vietnam veteran Merv Tschida of Aberdeen says he was happy to be invited to the hunt. He said there’s certainly more appreciation for Vietnam-era veterans nowadays than there was when he got out of the Navy in 1968.


And that, Bastian said, is the reason for including Vietnam veterans in the warrior hunts. Many were not properly respected when they came home from service.


Kids are included so they can carry on the legacy of hunting and enjoying the outdoors, Bastian said.


After an early pass through a field Monday, Staff Sgt. Shawn Bilko and Sgt. Alan Hobgood, both stationed at Fort Riley, admired a bird one of the men had shot and discussed the fun they were having.


It’s nice, Hobgood said, to get away from the daily grind of military life.


“And we get to shoot guns,” he said. “Everybody likes to do that, right?”


Even former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds took to the fields, rescheduling some promotional work for his Senate campaign to today so he could take part.


He called the participating soldiers and veterans “the real public servants.”


“If you can find a way to make it work, you can,” he said of attending the hunt.


Rounds watched the hunting dogs work the ground in front of him and offered good-natured chuckles when some hunters shot at pheasants well out of range.


By early afternoon, the box of a pickup was lined with birds that had been shot, though many others escaped the wrath of shotgun shells fired in their direction.


“We’re losing the battle with the birds,” a voice cried as a flurry of shots missed their mark during a pass through a field.


Even so, hunters seemed to be having fun: Smiles, laughter and story-telling ruled the day at On The Point, which offered a lunch of pheasant sandwiches and chicken noodle soup.


Karl Kreutzmann said his wife works with Lisa Skelton, one of the owners of the lodge. Skelton said her father, Harris Swanson of Ipswich, is a Vietnam veteran, so the family was happy to offer the lodge’s services to help with the hunt.


On Sunday, many members of the group attended a welcome party at the Mitchell Cabella’s store. They were even honored with a police escort, Bastian said.


Today, Lantgen will speak about his time in the service to students in Ipswich.


Bastian said he’ll keep working to grow Warriors Never Give Up. He’s looking for other lodges willing to host hunts as well as corporate donors and wants the group to be able to make contributions to others groups with similar aims. In particular, he wants Warriors Never Give Up to positively change the lives of those it serves.


For northeast South Dakota, there’s already been a nifty side benefit. Ken Kreutzmann said he’ll return to the Ipswich area for his future pheasant hunting, rather than heading to Presho.


“I’m coming back,” he said, holding a bird he shot. “This is a lot closer, and the hunting is just as good.”


Follow @ScottReports on Twitter.


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