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Rod, Gun & Game: Let’s take an outdoor adventure-packed vacation to the Black Hills of South Dakota

SPRINGVILLE — Last year, after my wife and I traveled to Alaska, I told her that we had to return soon. I didn’t know that we could find such undisturbed wilderness anywhere else, let alone in the southwest corner of South Dakota, the infamous Badlands of the Black Hills.

During our recent trip to this locale, we caught trout, walleye and bass and we hunted for Merriam turkeys.

My excuse for heading to the Deadwood Hills, where the discovery of gold set the stage for the last great gold rush in 1874, was the meeting of the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers, during an event known as “Cast ‘N Blast.”

I was able to meet many fellow outdoor writers. Together with some local nature-lovers, we made plans to fish, hunt, rock collect, hike, mountain bike and horseback ride.

Although it would have taken less than a day to drive to this part of America, my wife and I chose to fly, saving ourselves some time. We flew to Rapid City, S.D., which is located approximately 45 minutes from the Deadwoods.

We met our host, Nort Johnson of the Black Hills, Badlands and Lakes Association and enjoyed a guided tour to our hotel.

We unloaded our gear at the Deadwood Mountain Grand Hotel, which is located in the historic mountain city of Deadwood. We then met with Lee Harstad of the Deadwood Chamber of Commerce.

During our stay, we observed dozens of whitetail deer, mule deer and Merriam turkey. Other people in our group spotted bobcats, eagles, big-horn sheep, prairie dogs, vultures and a mountain lion, who was looking for breakfast.

Deadwood offered a glimpse into the lives of our settling ancestors. Here, General George Armstrong Custer met with the American Indians and Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane both hung out with gold seekers.

We visited Saloon No. 10, one of the original poker bar taverns. Here, Hickok was gunned down, while holding a poker hand of aces and eights, the hand that became forever known as the “dead man’s hand.” Morning walks around this town are adventures, all by themselves.

I spent some time with an old friend, Dave Gray, the inventor and manufacturer of Carbon-X™ fishing rods. He and I met with former Minnesota guide and ice-fishing lure-maker Ivan Burandt, for some early walleye fishing.

Burandt fished with Al and Ron Lindner, in the duo’s early TV shows and videos. He is probably best remembered for the “Ivan’s jigging spoon” lure.

We went to troll for Orman Reservoir walleyes. Burandt positioned a sturdy planer board mast, launched the boat and off we went. Using floating stickbait lures that matched the local forage, he utilized Salmo© lures and Cabela’s® Walleye Divers®, behind an 8-pound test Berkley® XT leader, attached to a 14-pound main line.

Burandt trailed his lures 40 and 80 feet back, in the 10 – 18-foot waters, while trolling at about 1 1/2 mph, turning frequently, to entice strikes.

We caught walleye from 18 – 21 inches, during that mountainous fishing trip. Orman Reservoir rules enforce a walleye slot limit, as fish between 15 and 18 inches must be released. Only one fish longer than 18 inches is allowed. Fish that are smaller than 15 inches are permitted, as part of the daily, four-fish limit.

We later settled in, for a meal at the Aught Six Grille. The Deadwood Grand Hotel’s restaurant’s name has a cool back story. The hotel was built on the former site of the slime plant, which was erected in 1906. The location served to recover gold from the watery slurry, where gold was panned. The “06” is also a reference to the 30-06 Springfield cartridge rifle that was standardized in 1906.

“Aught Six” was used in the title, instead of “Ought-Six” because, in the Periodic Table, “Au” is the symbol for gold.

We discovered that most of the Badlands Park, which is made up of more than 244,000 square acres, is federal land, protected by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. No cabins appear around any of the reservoirs.

We fished Pactola Reservoir with Captain Tyler French. This spot is another man-made waterway that boasts not a single cabin or building, although campground sites are available.

We caught more than 30 rainbow trout to 21 inches, with flies and simple jig lures, using mostly open-face spinning reel rigs, in less than 2 hours.

We then switched to deep water jigging with lip-hooked live chubs and three-eighth ounce lead head jigs, to catch lake trout as long as 30 inches.

In addition to spending time in the outdoors and taking in the history of the Badlands, we also visited Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial.

Mount Rushmore, a national monument, is spectacular. The site provides a striking view of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, representing the first 150 years of American history.

If you are vacation planning, go online for more information about the Black Hills and Badlands of southwest South Dakota.

Next year’s AGLOW Cast ‘N Blast event will move to Chautauqua Lake in Western New York.

Big walleye contest
The 10 winners of the 2013 Southtowns Walleye Association Tournament took home cash and merchandise.

Big fish have historically been taken near Barcelona Harbor waters and this year’s top three fish were no exception.

Other fish in the top 10 came from waters between Point Breeze and Buffalo. A majority of the fish were taken on Renosky© stickbaits or spinner and worm rigs, fished between 35 and 40 feet down.

The new Rapala Scatter Rap® stickbait lure fooled many fish.

For more information about the tournament, visit

Outdoor calendar
– July 10: WNY Safari Club, 7 p.m. Michael’s Banquet Facility, located at 4885 Southwestern Blvd. in Hamburg. For more information, call 565-1980.

– July 13 and 14: Ameri-Can Walleye Classic, Chadwick Bay Marina, Dunkirk Harbor. Five fish-per-day limit. For more information, call 875-8148.

– July 13: King salmon tournament, Lake Ontario. For more information, visit or email

– July 27: Sunset Bay Walleye Shoot-out, Lake Erie at Sunset Bay. Six fish-per-day limit. For more information, email or call Bob Rustowicz at 830-6394.

– Aug. 2 – 4: Northern Chautauqua County Walleye Derby, Dunkirk Harbor. Three fish-per-day limit. For more information, call Zen Olaw at 640-2776.

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