Signature Roosters

field

Field-testing Krieghoffs at The Signature Lodge

As many know, Krieghoff’s iconic design dates back to 1957, when the company acquired the patent for the Remington Model 32. The Ulm, Germany-based firm renamed the O/U the K-32 before introducing an updated version, the K-80, in 1980. Boasting various changes—such as incorporating coil springs instead of wire springs, being outfitted with an adjustable trigger and having modified stock dimensions—the K-80 would be the gun that elevated Krieghoff’s reputation among serious shooters everywhere, especially in the US. Eventually Dieter Krieghoff, the great-grandson of founder Ludwig Krieghoff, relocated to Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Today, nearly 140 years since the company’s founding, Dieter serves as the fourth-generation Chairman of the Board of Krieghoff International and spends much of his time at the company’s Ottsville, Pennsylvania, headquarters. Meanwhile his nephew, Phil Krieghoff, serves as the Managing Director of Krieghoff GmbH, overseeing the company’s main manufacturing operations in Germany. The company has since developed and marketed a range of shotguns and rifles, including the KX-6 single-barrel trap gun, the K-20 (a scaled-down action with either 20- or 28-gauge barrels) and the Essencia round-body sidelock side-by-side field gun. 

bird

Arriving at The Signature Lodge is like arriving at a fixed-base operation for an all-out assault on the ring-necked pheasant. The lodge sits on a stunning vista overlooking Lake Oahe and offers 28 guest rooms and five suites extending in different directions from a lively bar area. The great room boasts views of the beautiful prairie landscape, and the pièce de résistance is the dining room, which serves the extraordinary food of Executive Chef Sean Finley. This was to be our group’s belt-loosening home for the next three nights, while our days were filled with well-orchestrated expeditions into the cornfields of central South Dakota. 

Once all of the guests had arrived, we convened for a safety talk and a stunning meal of antelope sliders, stuffed mushrooms and deconstructed key lime pie. “Delicious” hardly begins to describe it. And less than 12 hours later we reconvened at 7 am for an enormous breakfast buffet that included made-to-order omelets and a dazzling array of breakfast foods. My brush pants were already feeling snug.

Then the fun intensified, as we were allowed to choose our guns for the hunt. While there were K-80 Parcours available in 12 gauge, most everyone gravitated to the K-20 Parcours and Victoria (designed for the female frame) in 20 and 28 gauge. These are lighter, more field-friendly versions of the K-20, and each has soldered side ribs, allowing thinner barrel walls (instead of the free-floating barrels on the heavier Sporting K-20), as well as more svelte buttstocks and forends.

room

The lodge’s great room offers stunning views of the beautiful prairie landscape.

We then expeditiously divided into small squads and loaded into the lodge’s customized school buses. With temperatures expected to rise into the 90s, we were determined to take advantage of the cooler morning. By 8 am our squad of eight had taken positions for the drive-and-block-style hunt. As the push began, two hunters accompanied the guides as they entered the fields of soaring corn while other shooters flanked the crops. We made our way forward, moving the birds toward the blockers, who were stationed 300 yards or so distant.

Alex Diehl, President and CEO of Krieghoff International, enjoying a break in the action.

With essential orders to shoot only birds backgrounded by blue sky, we proceeded in an organized manner, the anticipation building with each step. It wasn’t long before the pheasants started bouncing like popcorn on a hot skillet. Roosters flew in every direction, with only a lucky few escaping. With the early season birds holding tight, most shots were relatively close despite hunters waiting for the birds to rise and safely clear the field before firing. Shot after shot, roosters rained from the sky.

At the end of the field, with downed birds collected, we re-boarded the bus and headed to the next cover. This scenario was repeated three times during the morning. All the while the guides choreographed a safe and thoughtful dance of replacing tired dogs with fresh dogs that would have made a Stanley Cup-winning hockey team proud. But with the mercury continuing to rise, we hunted into the lunch hour and then headed back to the lodge for our next big, air-conditioned meal. 

gun

The Parcours, available in 20 and 28 gauge, is a lighter, field-friendly version of the K-20.

After the most intriguing burger I can remember—Wagyu beef with ground duck and egg—some of our group sat around the U-shaped bar and chatted, while others hit the fitness room, took a siesta or caught up on work. (Though not an option on our trip, the lodge also offers walleye fishing on Lake Oahe during pheasant season.) I chose to hit the covered 5 Stand, a short walk from the lodge. This was my chance to work out some kinks in my shooting that had reared up in the field. The Krieghoff staff had filled the rack at the 5 Stand with a range of guns, including a 20-gauge Parcours similar to the one I’d been using. Shot after shot, I grew more comfortable with the Parcours, which was a significant departure from my personal subgauges. With its 30-inch barrels and Prince of Wales stock, the Parcours weighed a healthy but extremely well-balanced seven pounds. After firing several boxes of shells, I went to return the gun and spied an elegant 20-gauge Essencia—a side-by-side I had coveted for years. Switching back and forth between the two, I fired another six boxes of Federal No. 7½s at the wide array of presentations. With the barrels cooking in the 90° heat, I was amazed by the balance of two very different guns, both producing similarly satisfying results.

girl

Krieghoff's Victoria over/under, designed for women, performed well for walking up roosters.

The temperature that afternoon was too hot to return to the field but not too hot to enjoy generous appetizers of cowboy fritters and quail lollipops as we lolled on overstuffed leather sofas and took in the yawning vistas of the Great Plains. Did I mention how tight my pants were getting?

The next morning we awoke to a decidedly Signature tradition. Staffed with students and alums from Auburn and Texas Tech universities, the lodge becomes college-football country every Saturday. By the time our breakfast was wrapping up, confetti canons were firing and three massive flat-panel TVs were blasting ESPN’s College Game Day. Being the first Saturday in September, this was full-on college-football time, and hunting would be mixed with a slate of mostly non-conference games. The day was also cooler, with temperatures starting in the low 50s.

man cooking

The Signature Lodge’s General Manager and Head Chef, Sean Finley, served up belt-loosening meals.

Taking advantage of the manageable weather, we hit the fields by 8 and spent the next 3½ hours in new squads with new friends from all corners of the US. We worked field after productive field, enjoying the early season thrill of untold numbers of hard-flying, challenging roosters. 

My comfort with the K-20 and Essencia grew and grew as I alternated between models. As one rooster that had escaped the standing corn rose agitated and anxious from a hedgerow of stunted oaks, I swung into action with my K-20. Chasing with the stacked barrels and eventually edging past the bird as he quartered furiously away, I dropped him at 40 yards. This was my decisive moment, when hunter, gun and bird converged in one well-timed sequence. I confess that at the outset I had been dubious about taking a Krieghoff afield—guilty of the exact “target-gun mindset” the company was trying to dispel. I wanted more of a spunky Mercedes-AMG coupe than a robust G-Wagen, but my opinion had shifted. The K-20 Parcours turned out to be far more nimble than expected. While the scale might say it’s a bit heavy by 20-gauge field standards, the gun never once felt heavy in the hand. I daresay, it might even be the perfect gun for walking up South Dakota ringnecks. 

dog

Warm temperatures necessitated switching out dogs frequently.

And as the adrenaline wore off and our paces started slowing, we returned to the lodge before one final afternoon of blue skies and more birds. In so many ways it was exactly what I’d hoped to find, while in others it was totally surprising, with new guns, new foods, new friends and new opinions. 

For more information about Krieghoff’s line of guns, visit krieghoff.com. For details about The Signature Lodge by Cheyenne Ridge Outfitters, visit thesignaturelodge.com.

Photographs courtesy of Krieghoff International

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