Ramsey shifts gears during the 2020-2021 North American Waterfowl Tour – and after a couple weeks sitting in duck and goose blinds, stretching his legs to chase North Dakota pheasants feels great! Todays guests, Ringneck Resort’s Shaine Swenson and Clayton Mayer talk about their own hunting origins and what it takes to organize a hunt like this. What advantages does North Dakota offer over South Dakota? What’s a normal hunting day like and why are they flexible? When do the seasons run? How does Ramsey describe the hunting them, and what left a particularly smelly impression? What are some favored ways for cooking pheasants? It’s another great Duck Season Somewhere episode from the never-ending road! Related Links: Ringneck Resort, North Dakota Pheasant Hunting Combo
Talking Hunting from Ringneck Resort in North Dakota
That was my very first memories hunting when I grew up, right on that creek where we were today.
Ramsey Russell: I’m your host Ramsey Russell, join me here to listen to those conversations. Welcome back to Duck Season Somewhere. I am in Southeast North Dakota Ringneck Resort, kicking up some kind of funny looking duck. They’re orange with big, long tails and red goggles and a green head with a white stripe and they cuss and cackle when they break out of cover in front of the dogs. After a couple of weeks of sitting in cold duck blinds and goose blinds from here to Mississippi, it sure has been good to get out and stretch my legs and shoot some ringneck pheasants. Joining me today are Shane Swenson and Clayton Mayer, with Ringneck Resort. Y’all introduce yourselves.
Shane Swenson: My name’s Shane Swenson. I’m the owner of Ringneck Resort here in North Dakota, born and raised out here. That’s what I’m doing.
Ramsey Russell: Where are you from, and how did you get started into this stuff?
Shane Swenson: I’m from about half hour here from the lodge, grew up here in a small town in North Dakota. I grew up pheasant hunting with my dad. I’d load up the dogs and we just go out and start busting through cover and trying to find those things.
Ramsey Russell: This morning we pushed a long, beautiful creek and there was cat tails on the edge of that creek. That’s how you started. I know you had a lot of CRP back then, a lot of agriculture. We got to the end of that Baatan death march of a walk. We took the scenic route. They stuck to the course. You were telling me that’s how you grew up with your dad, hunting.
Shane Swenson: That was my very first memories hunting when I grew up, right on that creek where we were today.
Ramsey Russell: How old do you think you were when you started going with your dad?
Shane Swenson: Probably four or five years old.
Ramsey Russell: Really? Those little, short legs will carry you that far?
Shane Swenson: I’d make it about halfway through that creek and then my dad had to carry me the rest of the way.
Ramsey Russell: That’s all right. I bet he was glad to do it.
Shane Swenson: Oh yeah, he was.
Ramsey Russell: What’s your story, Clayton?
Clayton Mayor: I’m Clayton Mayor, from Southern Illinois. I’m one of the guides at the Ringneck Resort working for Shane and chasing these roosters around, doing some duck hunting, and enjoying the North Dakota life up here.
North Dakota vs South Dakota Hunting
That’s been astounding, these are all wild birds we were hunting.
Ramsey Russell: Heck yeah, y’all sure got a nice place, man. This is a duck-goose combo with pheasants, so it’s the best of both worlds. I know we’ve been talking the last couple of days [about] kicking up rooster, but you’ve got clients coming out here just to shoot pheasants?
Clayton Mayor: Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: You’ve got clients that come just to shoot waterfowl, or do the combo. If you say ringneck pheasant back home, everybody thinks of South Dakota and that’s a great place to go shoot pheasants, but good luck applying to getting drawn. You have to apply for a lottery system to get a duck license. Here in North Dakota, you don’t, you can buy it over the counter, buy it online, show up here at the lodge, y’all can sell it, and they can do both.
Shane Swenson: Yeah, that’s a little advantage we have over South Dakota: we can buy [licenses]. There’s no limit of license availability.
Ramsey Russell: And there’s no shortage of birds. Oh my gosh, if we’ve seen some pheasant the last couple of days! That’s been astounding, these are all wild birds we were hunting. This is not any of the put stuff, this is wild bird hunting. The spurs that that boy shot yesterday, that first rooster we kicked up, he had spurs like a fighting hand.
Shane Swenson: Oh yeah. That thing had hooks like a turkey, like Big Tom.
Ramsey Russell: One advantage I see of a combo hunt: I think everybody that listens likes to shoot waterfowl, but the opportunity to have those pheasants…It’s like this past weekend, it was single digits. The Big Water stayed open and a lot of the geese and ducks stayed around. But man, they got messed up. They weren’t coming out at daylight.
Shane Swenson: No.
Ramsey Russell: How do you deal with something like it?
Benefits of the Combo Hunt: Ducks, Geese, Pheasants
Shane Swenson: We try to hunt our waterfowl in the morning, but when it gets cold like that we can switch it up and actually go pheasant hunting in the morning and then when our ducks get on the program or geese get on the program of the afternoon, with the one day feeding thing, we can go hunt them in the afternoon, and it works great that way.
Ramsey Russell: Just flop it over. Instead of going duck and goose hunting in the morning, flop it over, because the ducks and geese are coming out to feed in the evening. Go shoot roosters in the morning.
Shane Swenson: Yep.
Ramsey Russell: If you’re going to go out to hunt pheasants in the morning versus go out in the afternoon, do you look for something different? Do you hunt them differently?
Shane Swenson: Not necessarily. We like to wait until 9 or 10 o’clock in the mornings on our pheasants. The later, the better, because they’re right in the morning is when they feed and then right in the evening to…
Clayton Mayor: Wait for them to get back in that cover and give them a chance to get going again.
Shane Swenson: You start driving around right away at sunrise and you’ll see them all over the roads and everywhere, out in open fields, feeding bean fields, cornfields, whatever.
Ramsey Russell: Everybody in social media was giving me grief, didn’t matter if it was Facebook or Instagram, to be holding up pheasants. Like, “That doesn’t look like any duck I’ve ever seen you hold,” you know, but I’m like, “Man.”
Shane Swenson: You had fun out there, though, didn’t you?
Ramsey Russell: Oh, my gosh. I was smiling ear to ear. We stepped off yesterday evening. We drove about 15-20 minutes from here, and it was just faintly snowing when we got there and then, as Forrest Gump we called them, those great, big, fat, wet drops started coming down and it was almost enchanting out there walking around.
Clayton Mayor: Birds will hold good in that snow, too. It really gets some good dog work and get in there and let you get close to them, get you a good shot on them.
Ramsey Russell: We started going down that tree row, and within 100 yards, we got 6 roosters out, and they all flew over to those thick cattails. We walked it out, we crossed over, walked down another tree line, and then, I was sitting there, catching my breath. Man, my old duck hunting legs weren’t carrying me as good in that snow and y’all went out and shot a heck of a nice rooster.
Training Techniques to Get the Best Hunting Dogs
Once you get them out there in a real hunting situation, that’s when you really find out what the dogs made of…
Clayton Mayor: They get in those cattails. You need a good dog to get in there. Some of that stuff is really hard walking in there, but that’s where they like to get, in that good, tight cover, and it’s pretty good hunting.
Ramsey Russell: Dog power we didn’t lack.
Clayton Mayor: That’s right.
Ramsey Russell: You had a couple of nice labs. Talk about your dogs a little bit, and talk about what you do with those dogs. That’s pretty dang interesting.
Clayton Mayor: I’m an associate trainer for Wildrose Kennels in Oxford, Mississippi. All of my dogs are Wildrose dogs. I take them with me to train in the summertime in the off season, and then I use them as my guide dogs during hunting season and it works really really well with the dog training. Getting in a place like this where you got all these hunting opportunities, you got the pheasants, you got the ducks, you got the geese, it’s a really good way to get the dogs out there and to use them for what you’ve been training for all year. It’s a lot of fun, a great opportunity to get a lot of birds over the dogs.
Ramsey Russell: No matter how well trained a dog is, there’s no substitute for experience.
Clayton Mayor: That’s right.
Ramsey Russell: I’ve got that little, green Char pup right now and she’s a great dog, she’s got the skill set. But man, every single day for the last two weeks have been a totally different, brand new, overwhelming experience for her. It was something she hadn’t seen. I was proud that yesterday she just kicked right in with your two dogs. You got a couple of different dogs out there.
Shane Swenson: Yeah, I’ve got a big black lab that I use for my flusher and then I’ve got a deutsch-drahthaar actually that I use for my pointer and he’s going to be a good dog, he’s only two years old now.
Ramsey Russell: I couldn’t believe he was only two years old.
Shane Swenson: He’ll be two in November.
Ramsey Russell: How much do you think he weighs, 80 lbs? He’s a beast.
Shane Swenson: He’s a lot of leg, a big long legged.
Clayton Mayor: He covered some ground pretty good.
Shane Swenson: Oh yeah.
Ramsey Russell: You know a couple of weeks ago we had Steve Biggers out of Texas on here and he’s a dog trainer like yourself, Clayton, and he was talking about how tough it was to be the coach’s kid is the way he put it. I noticed you expect a lot out of your dogs.
Clayton Mayor: I try to keep them dialed in and expect them to do what I asked them to do and all, once you get them out there in a real hunting situation, that’s when you really find out what the dogs made of, if they took to the training, and that’s the time to really put the pressure and put them to the test right there and if you don’t demand that keep that control over them, those birds really get them worked up. That’s for sure.
Ramsey Russell: When you train your British labs, do you teach them to do the figure eight and the quarter and tpo work out sending out these pheasants like that?
Clayton Mayor: It depends on what I’m initially training the dog for. If it’s going to be an upland dog, I’ll teach him to quarter, if it’s a duck dog I won’t teach them that, I’ll walk him at heel and it’s basically mark and retrieve. Then, later on, on when I get them real solid on lining, because you want to duck dog take a good long straight lines if you start to put that incorporate that quartering pattern into them, it’s kind of contradictory to a duck dog, so you got to train for your main event; what that dog’s main job is going to be, and then, later, you can add the other thing into it.
Ramsey Russell: I’m a huge fan of dove hunting. I’ve always said my “last meal” type of hunt would be opening day Mississippi just because of traditions and it’s a social sport and all the people. I see that pheasant hunting is a lot of the same way, and dogs are important. Back when I was a young man, and used to trump all over the Midwest for pheasants, it was because I had springers, full-bred springers, and I’d teach those little dogs. They did not do the technical duck hunting stuff, the lines and the marks, and they marked of course, but I didn’t handle them out on long distances on blinds for duck hunting. They were just meat dogs in that regard. But, boy, they would run those figure eights, like a little pair of scissors running across the field out in front before it starts out and beating up those pheasants, and it was a lot of fun doing it. The truth of the matter is when my last springer died I had kind of faded and got out of ringneck pheasant hunting. It wasn’t until yesterday that I just remembered how much damn fun it is.
The Secrets of Ringneck Pheasant Hunting
…if a pheasant ain’t dead, if his head’s up, he hits the ground running…
Clayton Mayor: They’re so important, too, not just getting the birds up, the quarter and the flush. Some of the stuff that we hunt, if you didn’t have a dog, even though you see them go down in there, you can’t find them.
Shane Swenson: You can’t find them in there if you don’t have dogs.
Ramsey Russell: Unlike a duck which will swim or walk, or a goose, if a pheasant ain’t dead, if his head’s up, he hits the ground running, like Road Runner when Wile E. Coyote’s chasing him.
Clayton Mayor: They cover some ground.
Shane Swenson: A good example is today.
Ramsey Russell: Oh yeah, y’all walked my poor legs to death, man. I felt that.
Shane Swenson: I thought I might have to carry Ramsey back!
Ramsey Russell: What was so disappointing is when you were back behind, you had gone down the creek, Clayton and them were of course across the creek ,and I struck some tracks, you could tell that middle toe was longer, it was a rooster track. My dog was kind of sniffing around, she’s green as a gourd and doing something, and I passed him up, thinking, “I wonder where he went?” About that time I hear “pop pop pop pop” and you shot him, and then, directly, one got up, it was ranging for that modified choke ball shot shells, but I banged him down and it took a dog to find him.
Clayton Mayor: It was a long way from where we were.
Ramsey Russell: It sure was.
Shane Swenson: We found him though.
Ramsey Russell: We found him, that was a good thing. The reason it turned into such a long walk is, what do you call that little drainage that came in?
Shane Swenson: It was like a little cut coming off that creek.
Ramsey Russell: The topography of that field, it didn’t look as long as it turned out to be.
Shane Swenson: It looked like it was about 100 yards. Like, “Oh, we’ll just walk up to this 100 yards.”
Ramsey Russell: It got real Wild West there all of a sudden. Pheasants going anywhere. You’re running out of breath, “Rooster! Hen, hen, hen!” There were chickens going everywhere.
Clayton Mayor: Yeah, I was on the wrong side of the creek when that started happening.
Ramsey Russell: Only then, but about a mile and a half later, when that thing played out, he was on the right way. We walked three miles. He’s like, “I don’t even know where Clayton and them are!” He’s right there where we started!
Shane Swenson: They’d probably been waiting the whole time for us.
Ramsey Russell: By then I would give out. I was like “Where’s the truck?” Oh, my gosh. Let’s go back to yesterday because we went all the way down that tree line, we cut over, and went back again. I’m going to say we walked a section and saw some roosters, y’all killed that big one, we started walking back, and then we started pushing that thick cattail and I knew the game. You were on the one end on the outside, I was on the other outside. These two guys – I kept looking back at the young guy, Dylan. He’s young, and he’s taller than me, and he covers ground like an elk. I’m having to foxtrot, and I knew. He was blazing through it.
Clayton Mayor: Yeah, we need to take him on the hunts.
Ramsey Russell: I knew I needed to get up ahead. I needed to get up to the end, because I knew there were going to be some birds coming out. We’ve seen five or six fly in there. I knew this thing was full of roosters and there was no way that just two guys forming a dragnet through the middle of that were going to get them all out.
Clayton Mayor: They’d have been slipping out the side.
Ramsey Russell: It was you two guys, and your two dogs. You and a dog ran up through there and boy, at the end of the line, it got a little good right there.
Shane Swenson: Oh, yeah, we walked a mile or so we got one rooster and toward the end there we had…
Ramsey Russell: The last 100 yards, we came out and finished up with limits.
Clayton Mayor: We’re pushing those pheasants the whole time, like he was talking about. They love to run and they stay in that cover, and that’s what happened. We got him at the end and it worked out.
Ramsey Russell: The same thing happened this morning after we took that big, long, scenic route, we came up and I’m going to say, by my Mississippi stride and counting, we’re a mile from the so-called bridge we crossed across. I had one bird in the bag. You dropped down. We’re going through that little cat tail, and one got up.
Shane Swenson: 100 yards from that bridge.
Ramsey Russell: 100 yards from the bridge, the last 100 yards of a four miles, five mile walk. I was whistling to you, because I had seen a rooster run up ahead of you about 50 yards, then I heard one get up right where you were. “Boom,” I shoot him. You’re done, man, you’re already tagged out,, and then your dog bumped one that I assumed was the one I just seen running, he went across the creek out of range. I said, “Well, I guess I’m going to come up one shy,” and just like that, “boom,” that other bird got up and that last bird in the morning is what defines pheasant hunting for me, because the sun was low behind my back, it was crystal clear, this bird gets up, and even if they don’t cuss and cackle, you know from the wing beats. It’s like a bigger helicopter blade turning and you know it’s a rooster when you first hear them. I’ve learned it’s so easy to want to just shoot the minute you see one, but if you’ll just take that second, that split second, to notice the red goggles, notice the green, notice the white, that trigonometry goes to the mind and
‘boom,” you fold them, and man, that was a relief to see that bird die. I was happy.
Shane Swenson: I couldn’t believe you hit it. That one was getting out there, too. You wrapped him pretty good.
Ramsey Russell: I got dialed in this morning on the longshots. I got a little practice.
Clayton Mayor: You were ready to shoot that bird and you were ready to get to the truck, too.
Shane Swenson: That’s when I thought I was going to have to carry you.
Perils on the Hunt
Yeah, you got squirted.
Ramsey Russell: Then we took those pictures at the bridge and I could see my truck. Objects look closer in this country than they really are and it was all uphill, That was at least a half mile. He’s like, “That’s only half a mile,” but, man, it’s all uphill and I was tired. But I wasn’t the only one. One of the most memorable things yesterday was Ike, your drahthaar. He starts rolling around and I’m like, “Maybe he’s chasing a mouse,” because he started getting all up in that clump of bush. I’m like, “That ain’t no pheasant.”
Clayton Mayor: I thought he was about to lock up on the point whenever I saw him. His tail was going.
Ramsey Russell: He didn’t crawl all up in that for nothing.
Shane Swenson: I’m thinking, “Here we go, we need one more rooster.”
Ramsey Russell: The Bossman, Shane, goes there and starts kicking and I don’t know how I smelled it first, but I go “Polecat!” It was so dense. I thought I was going to puke.
Shane Swenson: About right when my dog locked up on point he starts sneezing.
Ramsey Russell: He started sneezing and rolling and putting his head on the snow and running forward trying to get that stuff off and then you come back. “I don’t think I got squirted.” Yeah, you got squirted.
Shane Swenson: If I didn’t I would’ve kicked that thing’s ass.
Ramsey Russell: What did you do, throw your clothes away?
Shane Swenson: Man, I don’t know what I’m going to do with them.
Ramsey Russell: This is funny, tell the story about those chaps that got sprayed.
Shane Swenson: It’s funny. About a week or week and a half ago we had a group of guys in here for a combo hunt. They were waterfowl hunting in the morning and pheasant hunting in the afternoon. This guy, remember him telling us about those chaps?
Clayton Mayor: Oh yeah, we were talking about the Filson chaps and I was saying something about how much I liked mine and I had mine on, he was like, “Yeah, these I’ve had them since I was a little kid.” Since he was 14 or something. This is a 40 something year old guy.
Ramsey Russell: This story is really getting good.
Clayton Mayor: There’s some nice chaps when they’re all nice.
Shane Swenson: Those double 10 nice Filson chaps with a big zipper outside.
Clayton Mayor: They’ve been a lot of miles.
Shane Swenson: And probably really means something to this guy.
Ramsey Russell: Probably going to hand them down to his kids or grandkids.
Shane Swenson: Yeah, probably. Well he ends up leaving them here, these chaps. I was looking around for mine. I couldn’t find mine.I’m like, wow man, “That client left his. I’ll just go grab his, put his on for the day,” and they get sprayed by a skunk.
Clayton Mayor: So when you ship those to him?
Shane Swenson: I’m not going to clean them.
Ramsey Russell: It’ll just add to the memories, man. Maybe that wax will eventually wear off a little bit.
Shane Swenson: I doubt it, I doubt it.
Ramsey Russell: Did your truck smell like polecat this morning when you got in it?
Clayton Mayor: I’ve got a little add-on to this story. What I overheard: I heard Shane after that on the phone with his mom.
Shane Swenson: Oh no.
Clayton Mayor: “Mom, I can’t, I can’t. I got sprayed by a skunk. You got to do something. I just can’t” like that. He called his mama to help him with bathing this dog-skunk smell off of Ike.
Ramsey Russell: She’s a good mama, because I’m going to tell you, Ike stepped out looking like he’d been at the beauty parlor this morning. He looked good this morning. He got up and I couldn’t smell the polecat on him. What did she put on him?
Shane Swenson: It’s a mixture of baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and Dawn dish soap. You mix it all together into this paste, you put it on there dry, don’t wet the dog down and put this paste on him, and it pretty much takes it away.
Ramsey Russell: It did. I could not smell it.
Clayton Mayor: I didn’t smell it today.
Shane Swenson: It wasn’t that bad today.
Ramsey Russell: Because there for a while, he was walking kind of beside me at the hill and I’m smelling for him. I’ve got a nose for that stuff. I couldn’t smell it.
Shane Swenson: It took care of it.
Ramsey Russell: Good job, Mom.
Clayton Mayor: That’s right, Leah?
Shane Swenson: Leah.
Clayton Mayor: Mom Leah. She bailed him out.
Ramsey Russell: But I’m going to tell you right now, folks, that stuff that mamas will do for kids, they ain’t going to do for you. Your wife ain’t going to do that for you. She ain’t going to let you in the house.
Clayton Mayor: So remember that recipe.
Ramsey Russell: No really, that does work. Dawn detergent?
Shane Swenson: And baking soda and hydrogen peroxide, into a paste.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, and don’t get the dog wet, put it on her like a paste, and just brush it in and leave it on for as long as you can.
Shane Swenson: Just throw him back in his kennel. Because when we took Ike out of his kennel he was just pure white still from all that stuff. I just kept putting it on and putting on.
It’s All About the Food
Ramsey Russell: I used the same recipe when just to get duck-dog smell off of a dog to fly with them or travel with them or something like that. It works. But it reminds me of a story. I was down in Duck Camp, down with Steve Biggers again. We’re eating, Miss Peggy had cooked a big ol’ platter of pork chops with breakfast. You get bacon and eggs and toast and French toast and fried pork chops. Man, I’m just digging in, had the plates stacked up, and Forest is munching on one. He goes, “Man, these are almost as good as Mama’s.” I said “Son, I’ve been married to your mama for 20 something years and she ain’t never cooked fried pork chops.” He goes, “I guess she just does it while you ain’t around.” Whatever the kids want, Mama cooks.
Shane Swenson: That’s right. I know my mom does.
Ramsey Russell: Get your kids on board and you’ll get to eat that good stuff, too. Talk about your program here. We’ve already talked about North Dakota versus South Dakota, I think it’s good. But man, you’ve got a good vibe going on here with this camp house. You can probably hear some folks in the background having a good time right now at lunch, but it’s such a nice place. Miss Ann does a really nice job.
Shane Swenson: She does. She’s a great host here, too. Her food ain’t bad either.
Ramsey Russell: No, her food is fantastic.
Clayton Mayor: Knefla soup, that’s where it’s at.
Ramsey Russell: What is knefla soup?
Clayton Mayor: She said it’s a German dumpling soup, dumplings and potatoes.
Ramsey Russell: I haven’t tried it yet.
Clayton Mayor: Oh Ramsey, you got to try it.
Ramsey Russell: Knefla soup. That sounds like a North Dakota thing. Did you grow up eating it?
Shane Swenson: Oh yeah.
Ramsey Russell: Your mom cooked it?
Shane Swenson: Yep. She’s damn good at cooking it too.
Ramsey Russell: Dumpling soup.
Clayton Mayor: It’s pretty good stuff. It is.
The Where, What, & How of Hunting in North Dakota
How do you normally hunt the birds here?
Ramsey Russell: What other opportunities are here? Are there any other game birds around besides just pheasants?
Shane Swenson: We actually have a pretty decent population of sharp-tailed grouse. They’ve been on the incline here the last few years. Sharp tailed grouse and Hungarian partridge, too.
Ramsey Russell: Do you hunt them very similarly?
Shane Swenson: Yeah, it’s pretty similar. You’re hunting a little bit of a different habitat, a little bit different cover. You’re going to find sharp-tails more in that pastory, rolling hills kind of brush. You ain’t going to find them in the big thick cattails like we were walking today. The hunts are kind of the same way. They’re kind of in that more pasture stuff next to wheat. They really like wheat fields. If you can find a good pasture along wheat, that’s where you’re going to find hunts.
Ramsey Russell: Talk about the duck and goose hunting here, because I know that’s a primary part of your combo. How do you normally hunt the birds here?
Shane Swenson: We’re mainly field hunting here. We do a little water hunting but we try to stay in the dry fields.
Ramsey Russell: Mostly corn?
Shane Swenson: Yeah, corn. We do have lots of corn and beans.
Clayton Mayor: We hunted a wheat field the other day. In the wheat field there were some Canadas. We tried that, too.
Ramsey Russell: So it’s a lot like hunting in Canada?
Shane Swenson: Yes, as far as the field situation goes: dry fields, feeding fields, stuff like that.
Ramsey Russell: North Dakota is kind of like the Wild West in the sense that it’s in the past, and I know this is changing. This is changing according to some of the guys I’ve been talking to, some of the laws on trespass and things like that, but if it’s not posted, you just go hunting.
Shane Swenson: Yep. As a freelancer, if there’s no posted signs on any of the corners of the fields, you can go in there.
Clayton Mayor: With that being said though, if you don’t have permission, even though it’s not posted, if you’re hunting, the landowner can still come in there. He can run you off, so it is best to get permission.
Shane Swenson: It’s always better to get permission. The little landowners appreciate it too, like, “Man how did you track me down? I don’t even have any posted signs.” Just put the time in.
Ramsey Russell: It’s the right thing to do. It’s just common courtesy to go find the landowner and respect his land, respect him, stuff like that. I guess the point I was making is I appreciate guys freelancing. I appreciate it because we waterfowlers are can-do people. We get out there and muster through the habit, the weather, and the circumstances and go hard and go hard or go home, go big or go home. There’s so much to be said about coming up to a program like this. Coming in, you’ve got Ms. Ann’s cooking, you’ve got more of these rooms down the hall like a hotel rooms. It’s set up to where midday, if I want to go take a nap, watch a little Fox News, take a shower, I’ve got my little thing going on, then I can come out here to socialize, and the whole hall is loaded up with bedrooms like that. Then you’ve got a nice rec area upstairs. You’ve got an open bar right here, man. I haven’t seen this food table over here empty. There’s always something to eat.
Shane Swenson: Way too much to eat.
Ramsey Russell: You get to meet people. I’ve met people here from Mississippi, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Montana, folks from all over. It’s a hunting camp, man, it’s like a “home away from home” type of hunting camp, a real hunting camp experience. Everybody gets up, or they went off and did this this morning, somebody else went and did that. We got out and went pheasant hunting. The way y’all run this program is really nice. What is the typical program, three days? Is that what most people book?
Shane Swenson: Most of our guys are three days, we have a few four day and five day guys.
Ramsey Russell: If you’re going to drive this far, why not? Because it’s going to happen. North Dakota weather is unpredictable. I’m going to tell you, as a southerner, it was very, very nice out there today, 35°. It felt like balmy Belize compared to this weekend, this weekend was brutal.
Clayton Mayor: We had some 4° and 3° a few days ago.
Shane Swenson: The real feeling that day was like 19 below.
Ramsey Russell: What did y’all do? What did y’all see the birds do and how did y’all respond to it and how’d they respond? What went on with that?
Clayton Mayor: We went pheasant hunting, and killed pheasants, and had to do the waterfowl stuff in the afternoon. They just weren’t moving at all.
Shane Swenson: When it’s single digits like that you know it ain’t going to be good waterfowl.
Ramsey Russell: That’s what we saw up north. I was north of y’all, about an hour, back when all that mess was going on. I would have thought they’d come out and feed all day. But no, they sat tight and they came out at like 2 o’clock
Shane Swenson: They get a mindset when it gets cold like that to stay in the water, to make sure you have water.
Clayton Mayor: Keep open water, yep.
Ramsey Russell: When I got down here a couple of days ago, there’s a slough right down the road from here that was mostly iced over. Today it was all open. It was starting to open and it was loaded with mallards.
Clayton Mayor: We had a pretty good wind and then that big warm up, it didn’t take long. A day and a half and the water was coming back.
How Does a Ringneck Resort Hunting Trip Work?
When does this program kick-off? How long does it run? When does it end?
Ramsey Russell: How do y’all hide out in these fields? What’s an effective way for y’all to hide and get clients hidden? Because us hiding and clients hiding are totally two different things.
Shane Swenson: We like to have guys in layout blinds when we can, but we got plenty of fields here that have little slough edges, creek bottoms, and fence rows. We do a lot of hunting out of A-frames, too.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. Keeps them comfortable. Do you ever have clients show up and say, “I don’t want to have a layout blind.”
Shane Swenson: Oh yeah, that last group.
Clayton Mayor: That last group and they said absolutely no layouts.
Shane Swenson: We are not going in the layout blind. We do what we can to accommodate them.
Ramsey Russell: I think we all shoot better standing up but I actually feel like I shoot pretty darn good in a layout blind. When it’s windy I feel pretty darn warm sitting in my little cocoon of a layout blind. If you get those birds to land on the end of your boot, “boom,” you got them. I never doubt a guide. I always used to go with what the guide says, that’s the way to do it. Y’all know what you’re doing.
Clayton Mayor: My favorite way to hunt them is how we can get them.
Ramsey Russell: How you can get them, same here.
Clayton Mayor: Whatever it takes. If it’s layout blind or A-frames.
Shane Swenson: I’m not a comfortability hunter, I’m a killer.
Clayton Mayor: That’s right, I want success, I want something to happen.
Shane Swenson: It’s pretty comfortable sitting in the truck with a limit of them on the way back to the lodge.
Ramsey Russell: How big is your staff here? It’s more than just two of y’all. There’s a whole bunch of kids here.
Shane Swenson: I think we’ve got six employees total here now that most of them are scouting every day.
Ramsey Russell: Scouting every day, all day, every day. It makes a difference, doesn’t it? Because you can figure out those patterns, what those birds are doing, when they’re getting back into a routine. One of the kids I was talking to today said, “Whatever the next group is coming in has about 2000 mallards sitting in a field waiting on them.” He said “You know the cool thing with the birds that have been there, nobody’s been messing with, nobody’s been hunting them, they’re just sitting in this pocket, no free-rangers, nobody, so the next group that sets in is going to do it.” What’s a good sized party to run here at Ringneck Resort?
Shane Swenson: I’d say 5-8 is pretty standard. We like to keep it smaller. More personal, I like that a little better. 5-8 is probably your best number.
Ramsey Russell: When do the waterfowl and pheasant seasons open? When does this program kick-off? How long does it run? When does it end?
Shane Swenson: We book guys from about October 10, which is our pheasant opener, to November 15-18, something like that.
Ramsey Russell: Right there before Thanksgiving?
Shane Swenson: Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: You get a good couple of months in, a little bit more than that. Do the hunting styles or techniques or the program change at all?
Shane Swenson: Not necessarily. We’re doing a little bit different things every day. Just to try to kill your birds. We always put everyone in the best option they can. If we hunt Canada Geese in October, we might start out using 10, 12 dozen decoys, and by the end we’ll be using 30, 40 dozen decoys.
Ramsey Russell: When you say Canada geese, is it primarily big or little or both?
Shane Swenson: Big boys.
Ramsey Russell: That’s what everybody wants.
Shane Swenson: Yeah, we love shooting them.
Ramsey Russell: True story: 25-30 years ago, I started traveling to Canada for the first time because I wanted to shoot littles. I shot a few of them big, resident Canada geese back home hunting, but I wanted to go shoot those little mid-sized and small ones. We got up there to Alberta and we shot bigs, littles, middles, specs, snows and it got to be to wear over a period of time, the outfit I was working with, who set me down this path of GetDucks.com, would come in and say, “You know, I’ve got 300 big Canadas in this field and I’ve got 1500 littles in this field.” I wanted the big ones. I was telling somebody this in Wisconsin the other day, I think that those great big migratory Canada Geese are the most definitive North American waterfowl. You see mallards, shovelers, gadwalls, pintails, you see them all over the world in the Northern Hemisphere, they’re everywhere, so they’re not just ours. Canada geese, you see in America, primarily. Canada and America. That part of the flyway. Snow geese are the same way, but snow geese don’t play by rules. They make their own dang rules, but Canada geese, if you get them figured out, you can put them in the decoys. Just to see those big B52s set up, especially if you’re laying in the layout blind, just to see them flying out around the field 40 acres and to see them line up…
Shane Swenson: They’re so responsive to calling, too. They’re just a lot of fun to hunt.
Ramsey Russell: When they hit the ground, they’re big, and when you hold one up you feel like you did something.
Shane Swenson: When you clean one, you feel like you did something, too.
Ramsey Russell: You’ve got to skin them out like a deer. But what a great big animal and bird that is. Do y’all shoot snow geese out of this lodge at all?
Shane Swenson: We do, yeah. A lot of our snow goose hunting happens in November, probably in the second half of our hunting season.
Ramsey Russell: Y’all will go out and target them.
Shane Swenson: Oh, yeah.
Ramsey Russell: Most of the field hunting for ducks would be mallards and pintails? Sometimes green wings or something like that?
Clayton Mayor: We’ve shot several green wings.
Shane Swenson: Lately we’ve been shooting a lot of green wings.
Clayton Mayor: I saw some on that creek this morning when we were walking the pheasants.
Shane Swenson: We’ve got to go out there and try to kill some.
Ramsey Russell: That’s where we’re going to go. That was the best thing to come out. There’s about three places on that creek I’d like to see in daylight.
Shane Swenson: We were pheasant hunting and scouting and at the same time.
Ramsey Russell: Fortunately, that whole stretch of creek, some of those areas are open, some of them are frozen, and everywhere it was open, we jumped up. Mallards and gadwalls and pintails. No, I’d love to get in there with no blinds, just a handful of decoys, maybe a mojo, and tuck off into some cattails into some shadow on the east side of the bank. I think it would be a magical hunt in the morning. I think that would be a really nice hunt. Here’s a question, because I know we’re eating it for dinner tonight, but have y’all got a favorite recipe for ducks or pheasants or anything?
Sharing Favorite Waterfowl Recipes
Shane Swenson: I’ve got a good one for pheasants that we do on the crock pot. It’s simple. You just put your pheasant breasts in the crock pot with cream of mushroom soup and you pour that over rice after about four hours in the crock pot. It’s some good stuff. It pulls apart.
Ramsey Russell: [To Clayton] Have you got a favorite recipe?
Clayton Mayor: However I can eat a pheasant, I’ll eat it. The ducks, duck poppers, that’s my favorite. Everybody knows what a duck popper is.
Ramsey Russell: Everybody knows a duck popper. I tell you, I put a spin on mine that I like a lot. It’s jalapeno cream cheese with goose meat or duck meat rolled in bacon. I like to put fig preserves, orange marmalade, or jalapeno jelly, some kind of jelly, some kind of something in between that meat and that cream cheese and it just gives it just that next little level. Something sweet to balance out the jalapeno I think goes really good with it. We shot all those pheasants yesterday and you and what’s-his-face out there went out there and breasted them and brought me a whole gallon of fillets and I went in the kitchen and tenderized them.
Clayton Mayor: We’re going to eat those tonight.
Ramsey Russell: Soaked them in milk, I’m going to southern chicken fry them tonight.
Clayton Mayor: That’s what I’m talking about.
Ramsey Russell: I stopped by the grocery on the way over here and picked up the ingredients for some jezebel sauce. I just got a hankering for it. But I think I’m going to make a dipping sauce for it, but I’m also going to make a brown gravy, try to make a good brown gravy and we can put that over the top of it.
Clayton Mayor: Sounds fantastic.
Ramsey Russell: Can you sink your teeth into it?
Clayton Mayor: Oh Absolutely.
Shane Swenson: We’d better get after that sooner rather than later.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, well, I’m looking at the ingredients sitting on the bar, and it’s about that time. Folks, thank you all for listening to this episode of Duck Season Somewhere. Southeast North Dakota Ringneck Resort. Oh, real quick, Shane, how can they get in touch with you?
Shane Swenson: We’re on Instagram @ringneckresort. Facebook, Ringneck Resort, and our website is ringneckresort.com
Ramsey Russell: All right, guys. Ducks in the morning, geese in the morning, ringnecks in the afternoon, unless it is wicked cold. Sleep in and go shoot pheasants and hit that one time duck hunt in the afternoon. See you next time, Duck Season Somewhere.