Pheasant Feast

Swinging Krieghoffs on the Fast-Flying Birds of Cheyenne Ridge

By Ryan Sparks 
The Signature Lodge by Cheyenne Ridge Outfitters just north of Pierre, South Dakota, has seemingly endless acres for pheasant hunting. Photo courtesy of Sam Dill.

Walking a long row of standing corn, Labrador retrievers zigzagged in front of us, their noses low to the ground following a trail of scent.

Somewhere ahead, a legion of rooster pheasants was on the run. It was the first morning at The Signature Lodge by Cheyenne Ridge Outfitters just north of Pierre, South Dakota, and the barrels of the Krieghoff I was carrying were already hot.
After walking the first two covers of the day, I had already shot more pheasants than during a normal week of hunting back at home in Minnesota. The high-volume shooting Cheyenne Ridge is known for was a large reason Krieghoff selected the lodge to showcase their line of superb field shotguns.

So far, the K-20 Parcours had more than lived up to its reputation. I was impressed by its performance on both the quick-pointing, instinctive shots needed for fast-rising roosters as well as the more deliberate steadiness required for leading birds sailing at full speed.

We approached a low spot in the cover. The guides called to be ready. Soon, birds were peeling out of the corn and the shooters closest to the action quickly emptied their barrels.
More birds took flight. They came past my position at the farthest end of the line. I rushed my first shot, missing well behind the rooster before  correcting my lead and connecting on the second shot. 

The K-20 has all the K-80 features but is scaled down for smaller gauges. The wood and engraving are exceptional.

I broke the gun to reload, and two more birds sailed past in front of me. As they hooked behind me, I had just enough time to drop a shell in the bottom barrel, snap the K-20 shut, swing past the bird, and punch the trigger. 

Krieghoff showcased their K-20 Parcours, a well-balanced gun with just enough heft up front to lend some steadiness without sacrificing the swing speed so necessary for flushed game.

At the report, the bird dropped a leg and knuckleballed into a stand of millet around 100 yards away. Hot on its trail was a black lab. A few minutes later the dog was proudly trotting back with the bird in its mouth.

Under the direction of Sean Finley, the lodge’s operations manager and executive chef, Cheyenne Ridge has developed a reputation as both a world-class hunting destination and an amazing culinary experience.

Back at the lodge that evening, wine was poured and incredible plates of stuffed pork chops were placed in front of us during a four-course dinner. Under the direction of Sean Finley, the lodge’s operations manager and executive chef, Cheyenne Ridge has developed a reputation as both a world-class hunting destination and an amazing culinary experience. 

“We will feed you to death here,” Finley said as dessert was served. Throughout the trip, we enjoyed fresh seafood, cut-to-order Ibérico ham, fine cheeses, hand-cut steaks, and a litany of other dishes too long to list. In short, the food and service at Cheyenne Ridge are among the best in the world. 

The next morning, we enjoyed another memorable pheasant hunt, with more than enough roosters to go around. After the morning hunt we hit the 5-stand course. It was not designed to make you feel good about yourself. It was challenging and a perfect chance to compare the gun in the field versus on the clays range. 

Guns that are too light are nice to carry but can be whippy to shoot. The K-20 is a real shooter. It balanced with just enough heft up front to lend some steadiness without sacrificing the swing speed so necessary for flushed game. 

The K-20 has all the K-80 features but is scaled down for smaller gauges. The low-profile receiver is streamlined. It has light barrels and trim stock. 

“After walking the first two covers of the day, I had already shot more pheasants than during a normal week of hunting back at home in Minnesota.”

The action is derived from the K-80 Parcours, which is derived from the K-32 which is derived from the Remington 32 action with a sliding top latch. It has a lovely consistent trigger break.

Recoil is almost nonexistent and that makes it good for high-volume shooting and for quickly reacquiring a target for a second shot. It has a big paddle for operating the top lever. The fine engraving options are nearly endless. 

Photo courtesy of Ralf Mueller.

I put 100 shells through the gun at the range and then headed back inside to relax. After 15 minutes of thinking about how fun the gun was to shoot, I got up, headed back out and put another couple of boxes through it. 

More Upland Gear

Here are a few of the top-shelf upland gear we’ve used in 2023 and will be using in 2024. —Editors. 

Scheels Outfitter Endeavor hunting vest is extremely comfortable, which might be our favorite feature. We’ve been quite impressed with Scheels products recently. Their Endeavor upland pants and Spotter Vest, which is perfect for layering in mid or late season.


Apex Upland Bird Tungsten Super Shot 

After several years of shooting Apex Ammunition’s Tungsten Super Shot (TSS) we can say they are some of the most effective shells we’ve ever used. If you have never shot TSS, it is 60% denser than lead and provides more kinetic energy out of smaller shot sizes. TSS has traditionally been associated with turkey and waterfowl hunting, but Apex’s line of upland rounds showcases its versatility. Available in 12-, 20- and 28-gauge and shot sizes ranging from 7 1/2 to 9, there is a load for everything from late-season roosters to fast-flying quail. Being non-toxic, TSS won’t harm other wildlife and can be used in places like waterfowl production areas where lead is not allowed. $49.99.

Federal Premium Hevi-Bismuth

Over the last year, we’ve used Federal Premium Hevi-Bismuth on a variety of waterfowl and upland bird hunts. From Montana geese to South Dakota pheasants to Mississippi mallards, it has proved its effectiveness. Federal’s Hevi-Bismuth carries a density of 9.6g/cc, making it 22% denser than steel and delivering more downrange energy. Because of its density, hunters can shoot shot sizes smaller than what they would normally use with steel. This means more pellets downrange that deliver the same or more energy than steel. Federal’s FliteControl Flex wads deliver the shot in consistent and uniform patterns. Perhaps best of all, the metallic properties of Hevi-Bismuth make these loads safe in both modern and classic shotguns – so you can pack some new memories into your grandpa’s old duck gun. $66.99-$76.99

Fiocchi Golden Pheasant Bismuth

This is a high-end, non-toxic load in 12-gauge that uses high-density 9.75 g/cc bismuth. The Golden Series is a step up in relation to most shells on the market. It is precision loaded, moisture resistant and has a sealed hull. High-quality primers and clean-burning powder round out this quality shotshell. You have the choice of No. 4 or No. 6 shot in 3-inch, 1 1/4-ounce payload shells. 10 per box. 


Tom Beckbe Strap Vest

We’ve tried too many vest over the years that felt as if they’ll need a few decades to break in and be comfortable. Tom Beckbe’s Strap Vest feels a part of you the first time you strap it on. It’s made of the same classic waxed shelter cloth that that they use in their famous Tensaw jacket. The adjustable straps are cotton and the game pouches are fully lined and have drain eyelets. Side straps and front waistband are also adjustable for a good fit. Available in rye brown or blaze orange. $215 at

Hunt Redi Deviate Ambush 2.0 

Manufactured by FirstSpear, a U.S. company that makes tactical gear for the military, the Hunt Redi Deviate 2.0 is among the best upland vests on the market. Its Molle attachment system makes the vest customizable. Hunters can strip it down to the bare minimum for a quick hunt after work or kit it out for a full day afield. We’ve been using the vest for several years and after well over 100 days in the field, it is no worse for the wear. It is also very comfortable and won’t interfere with your gun mount. One feature we particularly like is the moveable D-loop for quick, one-handed access to your e-collar transmitter. $395 MSRP. 

Scheels Outfitters Endeavor Hunting Vest 

Offerings for quality upland vests have never been better, and Scheel’s Endeavor hunting vest is a serious contender, especially at its price point. Features include an internal yoke frame, removable load-bearing waist belt, two expanding and self-draining shell/gear pouches, two easy-access water bottle holders and a unique GPS holder. The Endeavor is extremely comfortable, which might be our favorite feature. The level of adjustability in the waist belt, support straps, and built-in yoke allows you to dial in the vest for a custom fit. We also like the quiet magnetic shell/gear pouches, and the removable blaze orange back cover means the vest can do double duty in the dove field or turkey woods. The Hypalon-lined game pouch has a zipper at the bottom to easily clear out feathers, empty shells, and other bits of debris that collect over the course of a day in the field. $249.99.

Pyke Wingman B2 

The B2 version of the Wingman now has an extra-large game bag that will hold about six roosters. They also added Molle rails for more storage options. It’s built from tough materials yet is lightweight and comfortable. We also tried out Pyke’s new Kiowa shirt and Tongass pants and can recommend them heartily. Vest is $339.95 at


Krieghoff K-20 Parcours

Krieghoff has long been known to produce some of the best competitive clay target guns on the market, and there are good reasons why numerous hall-of-fame and Olympic shotgunners carry a Krieghoff. The K-20 Parcours contains all the attributes Krieghoff is known for, but in a lighter, streamlined package designed for hunting. We tested a 20-gauge model during a two-day South Dakota pheasant hunt and put several boxes of shells through it on the five-stand course. The gun was light enough for the field but still contained the balance that draws competitive shooters to Krieghoff. During the hunt, that balance led to smooth swings and quick, instinctive shooting. When flurries of roosters were getting up, the large leaf-shaped top lever made reloads quick. Overall, the K-20 Parcours is a beautiful gun that is a pleasure to shoot in both fit and finish. $14,195

F. Beesley Tecnica

Frederick Beesley of London was established in 1879 but keeps revealing new innovations while displaying impeccable craftsmanship. F. Beesley’s newly released model, the Tecnica, features a state-of-the-art Diamond Like Carbon coating on all metal parts. DLC is the toughest, most resilient finish ever to be applied to a shotgun, according to the company. One thing is for sure, it does provide an elegant and simplistic black finish. The company creates truly bespoke firearms, individually tailored to the unique preferences of the owner. Clients are invited to join craftsmen in Italy to inspect their gun in production, choose their stock wood and be fitted. $29,900 per pair.

Benelli 828U

Benelli has a reputation for producing some of the most reliable semi-automatic shotguns available. When they announced their first over-under several years ago, many people (us included) were skeptical. However, after buying a 20-gauge model three years ago, I can speak to its multi-purpose durability. He has put thousands of rounds through it shooting everything from sporting clays to quail to Canada geese and has loved every trigger pull. The 828U packs a lot of features into a beautiful package. Behind the cryogenically treated and separated barrels, the 828U’s steel breech block fits into steel races machined into a lightweight aluminum receiver. This contains pressure and protects the floating bolt face and hinge pins — a huge innovation in over-unders, a category of firearms where little has changed in the last 100 years. It also keeps the gun light, with the 20-gauge model weighing in at a mere 6 pounds. I haven’t found anything the Benelli 828U can’t handle, and that is high praise for any shotgun. $3,399 MSRP. 

Beretta 687 Silver Pigeon, Version V

Beretta’s new V version of the venerable Silver Pigeon 687 line is the top of the range of Beretta’s iconic over-under shotguns. You’ll notice fine engravings made with 5-axis laser technology on the 680-platform receiver. Bas-relief areas are embellished with unique sparkle that highlights the deep scroll motifs on the receiver, opening lever, trigger guard, locking shoulders, pins and forend release. The class 3 wood has a gloss finish, which protects it from rain and humidity. Overall, Beretta increased the quality of many of the Silver Pigeon V features as compared to the III. $4,399

Upland Gun Company 

It wouldn’t make sense to review a particular model of Upland Gun Company’s line of custom shotguns because each gun is made to order from both a fit and aesthetic perspective. Upland Gun Company has partnered with Italian gun maker RFM, who specializes in side-by-side and over-under shotguns, to make customized guns for individual customers. You can even send a photo of your dog to be hand-engraved on your gun. From a fit perspective, Upland Gun Company works with a network of gun fitters to offer fittings throughout the U.S. We’ve hunted with their guns on several occasions and can speak to their quality and beauty. From $1,999.


Dakota 283 G3 Kennel

As upland hunters, we invest a tremendous amount of time, money, and love into our hunting dogs. Just like annual trips to the vet and regular exercise, we want to keep our dogs healthy and protected. So why put them in a cheap, flimsy kennel? We used a Dakota 283 kennel during upland road trips across South Dakota, Nebraska, and Minnesota and were impressed by its rugged construction and thoughtful features. By far, our favorite aspect was its solid, roto-molded construction (think Yeti coolers). The built-in handle provides a solid way to easily ratchet the kennel to your vehicle and air vents keep your dog from overheating. We also liked the keyed latching door and drain hole for easy cleaning. Available in a variety of sizes and colors as well as with Dakota Guard, an additive that protects against things like listeria, E. coli and salmonella. $329-$599 MSRP.

Eukanuba Premium Performance 

Eukanuba’s line of Premium Performance dry dog food is specifically formulated with activity-based nutrient levels to match a dog’s unique workload. Along with a cocktail of antioxidants and joint-supporting glucosamine and chondroitin, it’s made to keep dogs fueled for the hunt. Just like human athletes, our dogs perform better when their diet is catered to their specific activity. It’s available in a variety of protein/fat blends like Sprint (21/13) for breeds like field cockers who need quick bursts of energy for flushing and quick retrieves, and Sport (30/20) for hard-charging pointing dogs who run miles in search of birds. Formulas can also be switched throughout the year to reflect changing activity levels from the hunting season to the off-season. $89.99 MSRP for 28-pound bag. 

SportDOG FieldSentinel 1825 

Sporting dogs can easily push past their physical limits in the field, and anyone who has had a dog go down during a hunt has had the same thought – how can I prevent this in the future? SportDOG’s new FieldSentinel 1825 is an innovative technology that answers that question. With built-in BodyGuard technology, the remote trainer system provides real-time health alerts. When the system senses there might be an issue, it alerts you with a red light located on top of the handheld. SportDOG calls it a “check engine light for your dog.” The FieldSentinel 1825 is multi-dog compatible and comes with a 1-mile range, waterproof design, and three stimulation modes (static, tone, vibration). $549.95


Kalispel Cases Double Shotgun Case 

Kalispel Cases makes heavy-duty aluminum cases for traveling with firearms. We tested their Double Shotgun Case while traveling to hunt Nebraska doves and South Dakota pheasants. We also hosed it down with water and tossed it in the bed of a pickup before driving dirt roads to see if moisture or dust was able to get inside. While the case picked up a few exterior scratches, the foam-lined interior stayed in perfect condition and kept the contents in place. Designed for breakdown shotguns, this smaller-sized case is perfect for flying with firearms and the unique locking rod design requires only one TSA-approved lock, rather than having to lock each military-grade latch individually. Kalispel Cases are made in the USA by the Kalispel Tribe in Cusick, Wash., and come with a lifetime warranty. $365 MSRP. 

Kenetrek Slide Rock Hiker

A good bird dog, a fast-pointing shotgun, and a tough pair of boots are the holy trinity of upland hunting. We wore Kenetrek’s Slide Rock Hikers during early-season upland hunts and found them to be a good multi-purpose upland boot whether you’re chasing sharptails on the prairie or busting brush for ruffed grouse. With all leather uppers, reinforced rubber toe and heel guard and Grapon outsoles, these boots are both tough and light. After a weekend break-in period, I found them to be very comfortable and supportive while logging double-digit miles for prairie chickens, sharptails, ruffed grouse and woodcock. $325 MSRP. 

OnX Hunt App

Over the last several years, the OnX Hunt app has become integral to our outdoor pursuits. We can’t imagine hunting without it. During editor Ryan Sparks’ Montana upland hunt, he used it to find every location he hunted as well as his campsite. OnX Hunt gives you access to land ownership data, GPS tracking, topographic maps and more. Using the OnX Hunt app allows you to scout terrain for upcoming hunts, find lesser-known access points, share hunting locations with friends and family, measure distances, and find your way home if you get turned around. You can purchase maps for a single state or get the Elite 50-state membership. There are more features packed into an Elite membership than we can go into here but trust us that it is worth every penny. $29,99-$99.99 at 

TETRA AlphaShield Ear Protection 

We’ve tried out many different types of hearing protection, and we feel comfortable with TETRA’s AlphaShield at the range or in the field. These plugs are high-tech: They stop high-end gun reports but actually amplify softer noises, like conversation and animal calls. Additionally, the AlphaShields are “tuned” for specific hunts. The Upland AlphaShields are optimized for noises such as bird flushes, e-collars and dog bells. Hearing loss is not a given for hunters. It’s important to protect yours and, especially, your new shooters, such as children and grandchildren. Check out a hearing test at 

YETI Yonder 1.5 Liter

We’ve always been a fan of YETI gear and their metal Rambler water bottle as well. No they’ve got a new composite water bottle called the Yonder. It’s a bit lighter yet pretty much indestructible. We generally leave it in the truck to water the dogs and ourselves at the end of a hunt. MSRP $30. 

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