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South Dakota bison, Pheasants and Friends
Where to begin with the story? I’ve known the Lutter family of Gann Valley South Dakota for probably 12 years. Seems like we've known each other much longer .. in the best of ways. I’ve been to their ranch a handful of times, originally to hunt pheasant but the evolution is into a wonderful friendship.
Last few times we have done buffalo chores – working animals, running feed and such. Usually still a bit of time to see the glory that are South Dakota wild pheasant.
This time it was quite a bit different, Jim had been seriously injured by a bottle-raised two year old bull (Billy) that up till that very moment had been no threat. Jim thinks the bull was just doing what bulls do; practice sparing with other bulls for the eventual right to breed the females. This guy had no such practice partners and Jim Lutter became “it”
Late November he was airlifted to Sioux Falls with multiple fractures, punctures in both lungs, a horn up the backside … and a beating that no one should have survived. He did.
But even when Jim is running full tilt, there are never enough hands. Wife Cindy, son Josh, daughters Katie and Becky … son in laws and other neighbors and friends all participate in this relatively large ranching operation.
So I came to work. Well, work is not really the appropriate word; I don’t think of it as anything but part of a great bison-centric life. Put several significant snowfalls over the top of everything else and there we were.
We’d run trailer and loader (and what a loader – a JSB extended boom with double bale grapple)
a couple miles to a field where oat bails waited deep in snowdrifts. Jim had to fish them out without getting stuck; 1800 plus pounds; each with 40+/- bushels of whole oats still attached to the stem and leaves. How many hundred bales did he harvest and stack … could ‘t count. Same with the corn silage bales and those of millet.
We’d load out and feed 12-18 bales per day to his feed lot and various pastures.
Temperatures ranged from -4 one morning to a high of 30 the Tuesday I left. However, the wind was nill; the sun shown on the snow most
days … and it was just gorgeous. It was bison weather, for sure. They love the cold; the snow and the open prairie that Lutters allow them to graze. It might not be for everyone, but I feel very privileged indeed to even be a small part.
Jim had several doctor/hospital visits over these few days, so part of the time Josh or Ty took me to help open gates while they fed; haul the hay trailer, and actually bring the loader back from where the hay was pulled to where we had to drop it off.
Yea, I am sore, but what a great soreness. Best workout one can get. Fresh air, bison, friends and no pheasants were harmed in the making of this adventure. I tried a couple times … but came away a vegetarian (ok, a bad hunter). I so appreciate those folk for letting me participate in their world. Next year it’s going to be longer.