By Matt Hranek
I’VE ALWAYS WANTED to hunt wild pheasants—in open habitats like in Kansas or South Dakota, where a number of the birds still flourish in the wild, not just with farmed birds released in the morning like they do in the northeast. So when Travis Haglin, a director at the Beretta Gallery in New York, invited me to put together a group to hunt wild pheasants at his family lodge in South Dakota, I called guys who I thought would be equally excited about it and a lot of fun to be with after the hunt. That included my friend Morgan Weber from Houston, my brother Nathan Hranek and Robert Spangle from LA, and Sean Burke to photograph it.
We all converged on Aberdeen in northeastern South Dakota, a very small town in a very flat place, and drove out in an old converted school bus to Pine Shadows Daybreak hunting lodge, surrounded by corn fields on the banks of the Elm River. The Hudson Bay Company located its southernmost trading post on these same grounds in the early 1800s. It was perfect habitat for pheasants. The lodge itself, which Travis’ father founded in 2010, is in a converted barn, and is comfortable, even cozy, with wood-paneled walls, overstuffed leather furniture and decorated with quintessential game art. Their resident young female chef prepares hearty, homecooked meals, just the thing you want after a day in the field. It certainly fulfills the family’s idea to continue the sporting traditions of the late 19th century with an outpost to enjoy the lifestyle of good dogs and good hunting.
Beretta sent out a bunch of guns for everyone to use. After warming up with a few rounds of sporting clays to get used to the guns and hone our skills, we went out and hunted with the lodge’s springer spaniels in the corn fields, walking abreast of the dogs as they flushed out a few wild ringnecks. It was pretty spectacular, walking for miles as the day crept into the afternoon, our shooting skills challenged by the wily birds. Needless to say, limits were taken. One night, I made what I call “pheasant fingers,” a Japanese-style katsu fried pheasant breast, along with Japanese mayonnaise that I brought along for the occasion, which we ate by the bonfire with cheap beer and whisky, checking all the boxes of what I like about a dudes’ hunting trip. Except that we elevated it all with better gear—field jackets, game pouches and the right hats—from sportswear brand Tom Beckbe, plus those beautiful Italian guns from Beretta. Morgan (who wore the more seasoned version of this attire because he hunts with it on his home turf in Texas), dubbed our group Los Cabrones Faisán—the pheasant fraternity. We all had an amazing time and promised that Los Cabrones Faisán would become an annual event. mh