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02
Wheelin' Sportsmen Program Provides a Great Hunt Opportunity

PIERRE, S.D. - The town of Blunt seems sleepy and normal enough for a small, South Dakota burg, but for two years now, something spectacular has happened within a stones throw of its main street.

Ron Jones, who owns approximately 800 acres near Blunt, in partnership with the National Wild Turkey Federation, hosted the second annual "National Wild Turkey Federation Wheelin Sportsman Pheasant Hunt" on Saturday, Oct. 29.

Fifteen hunters from across South Dakota participated in this years hunt, and while birds were plentiful and the group harvested 31 roosters, full limits weren't necessarily the final goal.

"Oh man, I get excited," said landowner Ron Jones, a Greeneville, Tennessee native and owner of RPC Incorporated. "You can just feel the energy from the dogs and hunters."

Many of the hunters agreed. "I don't know if I have ever seen that many birds in my life," Bryce New, of Sioux Falls said after he watched a group of about 50 pheasants flush ahead of the group. "You could almost flock shoot all the roosters that got up."

While that may be a bit of an exaggeration, the land these hunters, dogs and over 30 volunteers were on is definitely a prime bit of pheasant heaven, and that is no accident. Ron Jones bought this land specifically for pheasants, which is not out of the normal, what is out of the normal is he bought this land specifically for the "Wheelin Sportsman" program and this hunt.

"Ever since I was old enough to read "Field and Stream" I wanted to hunt pheasants, "Jones said. "I got the chance to come out and hunt with Cody Warne about three years ago. After hunting, I asked one of Cody's guides, Mark Swenson, to help me look for some land, with this program in mind. We found this piece of ground and decided it would suite our needs very well."

Jones doesn't see anything strange or spectacular in his spending a large amount of money on a hunt that lasts one day. "I have been fortunate, and this is my way of giving back. It is a little selfish of me though. Take a look around. How much fun are these guys having? Well, if you combine all of their smiles, that is how this day makes me feel."

Other people disagree with Jones. "Just when a guy gets down on the world and thinks everyone is out for themselves, someone like this comes along," said Mark New of Sioux Falls, and father of hunter Bryce New. "Ron is really what this country is about and even though he isn't a South Dakota resident, things like this prove that South Dakota is the best place on Earth."

Jones is quick to point out that this one-of-a-kind hunt isn't a one-man operation. "I have to commend the volunteers for all their hard work," he said. "The local chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation does more than you can imagine, the Game Fish and Parks department helps out a bunch, all the guys you see here today, the mayor of Blunt donated the chili we ate today, John Morrel donated a bunch of meat and Van Meter Insurance gave me a cash donation. None of this could happen without those folks."

The weekend started on Friday with a banquet and get together at the Isaac Walton League Lodge in Pierre. Saturday morning, before the hunt, the group got together and listened to a safety briefing by Hughes County Conservation Officer John Murphy.

"This really is about the neatest thing we have going anywhere near here," Murphy said. "Last year, they asked me to come out and discuss safety, and I really was blown away by what Ron, Mark and Bob (Gunderson, local NWTF president) had put together."

While the event seems to have a good footing and a great future, it still had room to grow, not only in the number of participants, but the number of sponsors as well.

"Hopefully the ball is rolling in the right direction," Jones said as the group prepared to hunt the third field of the afternoon. "I have challenged people all across the country to get involved," (Jones sponsors a wheel chair deer hunt in Alabama and a turkey hunt in Tennessee.) "It has really taken off in the South, and I want it to do the same here. Any able-bodied person can take a day to help. This takes local manpower and money, and we can use both. Donations are tax-deductible, and as you can see by the looks on these hunters faces, it is more than worth it."

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