THE LAZY J – 100 YEARS IN THE MAKING

The Jorgensen family’s roots run deep in Tripp County, South Dakota. In 1909, Martin Jorgensen Sr., a Danish immigrant, homesteaded the original farm near the little village of Ideal, South Dakota. Of those first homesteads, most are a vague memory, perhaps marked by a crumbling foundation. Truth is, not everyone is suited to South Dakota. Droughts, blizzards, tornadoes, World Wars, the Depression and the vagaries of commodity markets sent most of the original homesteaders back east, to town, in search of something different…maybe easier. Not the Jorgensens. Over 100 years and four generations later, they’re still here. They’ve been fruitful. They’ve multiplied.

In the early 1920’s Martin Sr. and a neighbor, Mr. Oliver Knapheide, welcomed some more immigrants to the Ideal area. Martin and Oliver made their way over 300 miles to northeast South Dakota.  In Sisseton, they loaded six chicken crates into the back of an old Maxwell truck. Each crate contained a dozen Chinese Ringneck Pheasants.  From there the men headed back to Tripp County intent upon introducing the Ringneck Pheasant to the Ideal area.  Upon their release, the birds, like the homesteaders, set about making a go of it in the New World.  What has taken place since has been nothing short of remarkable. It’s hard to imagine that an animal from halfway around the world could be as ideally adapted to any environment, much less one as harsh and unforgiving as the northern plains. South Dakota is known nationally and internationally for great pheasant hunting. But once you’re in South Dakota, and the guy at the airport in Sioux Falls asks you where you’re hunting; or at the sporting goods store in Mitchell; or at any truck stop along the interstate; when you tell them, “Just north of Winner.” The locals, the people in the know, will raise their brow, nod approvingly and say, “Ooh there’s a lot of pheasants out there.”

The 160 acres Martin Sr. carved out of the prairie is now a diversified farming and ranching operation sprawling over 16,000 acres in the capable hands of his grandsons and great grandsons. While living on and deriving their livelihood from this land, generations of Jorgensens, young and old, men and women, all have pheasant stories to share. Like how they see thousands of them fly out to feed in a stubble field each winter morning. And how those same birds fly back to roost in groves of trees, or what South Dakotans call shelterbelts, each evening. They’ll tell you about how many hens they stopped and waited for while they led their broods out of an alfalfa field when they were mowing hay last summer or how many crossed the road in front of them on their way to a ball game in Winner.

The Jorgensens have something very special here. And each year since 1983 they’ve shared it with select groups of sportsmen. You’ve heard the stories. Guess what…they’re true. Now, seeing is believing and the Lazy J Grand Lodge.