Business Feature: Jim River Ranch

Today's Business Feature takes us to Jim River Ranch in Redfield, SD. If you're a pheasant hunter, or know someone who is, direct them to this article! There's such a cool story behind how Jim River Ranch was founded...read on to see how Owner, Jesse Wright, developed the concept for a pheasant-hunting destination, and how he overcame significant adversity to make his dreams a reality. It's a lesson to all of us entrepreneurs out there. Life might throw us some curve balls, but with hard work, dedication, and a little bit of know-how, you can make it happen!

JRR Hunt

  • Tell us a little bit about yourself, Jesse. I was raised on the farm and land that has since became Jim River Ranch.  As a child and young man this land, the work ethic and principals that evolved from helping my parents work, became all that I was to become through the years.  Most of my life, being the youngest of 6 children (we had a down syndrome younger brother in 1965 who passed away at a year and a half old), having a 10 year older brother Jerry, 8 year older brother Wally, 6 year older sister Karen, and a 4 year old brother Kenny.  As my older siblings left the farm to pursue their life dreams, I very willingly fell into a role of helping my parents with whatever the tasks of farm life dealt to us.  Being the youngest and most likely suspect to help my mother with her very large garden, I did so!  To this day, I plant and care for a vegetable garden every year without fail!  Don’t know why….just makes me feel good!  Close to my childhood I guess.  My parents retired in 1980 and I could not bear to see our farm sold as so many retiring farmers needed to do in order to retire, so I asked them to sell to me.  They thought I was foolish and discouraged me from doing so, as it was a tough life and I had done well in a career change after leaving the farm in 1976 due to a drought that led me to sell of my cattle herd due to no feed.  I had mourned leaving the farm from 1976 to then and had looked forward to returning to continue my farming passion since having to leave in 1976.  I convinced my parents to allow me to apply for an FHA loan to buy them out and began that process.  After being turned down twice by FHA, I submitted a third application which was approved!  The loan officer said “We don’t know how you are going to do this, but we are going to give you the chance!”  Well, having been given the opportunity to farm our families land, I gave it all I had!  Being pretty handy working with horses, I began to train horses in addition to working the farm, also working for family friends in Redfield, doing anything they could use help with!  By the winter of 1988 I had lost money every year and the inevitable was coming, many of my generation who were attempting to take over their family farms were losing them to bankruptcy and I was fighting a losing battle as well.  The winter of 1988 I was offered an opportunity to take a temporary job in the Boston area and with some reluctance decided to go.  In just a couple of months I had earned around $20,000!  Unbelievable as it seemed to me, I had maybe found the answer to me saving my farm!  However, it would mean letting go of my rented land, which I would never get back again, and renting out my beloved land, which tore my heart out!  Leaving my farm was now my only way to save it!  I knew I had to do it and restructured my life to make a new plan work.  I had seen enormous opportunity in the Boston area and began to work toward creating an income which could help to pay my debts on the farm.  Well, 15 years later it began to become reality!  I began renovations to the large Victorian home which I had grown up in!  It had fallen into terrible disrepair over the years, having gone through several 300 year floods and having to been left un-lived in since the mid 90’s.  With renovations completed by 2008 I opened the doors to pheasant hunters as Jim River Ranch.  My parents having had taken in pheasant hunters since the late 50’s to the late 70’s, this was a business venture that was always in the back of my mind, in the event that I would need a backup business plan!  Jim River Ranch became my avenue to continue to pass my heritage down to future generations.  Today, my 10th year as JRR we are operating a successful, predominant pheasant hunting destination with guests coming back year after year to support what we do.

  • Can you give us a little bit of background information about your business? In addition to being a pheasant hunting destination, we do offer JRR as a destination wedding venue as well as for family reunions or any other occasion someone can imagine!  We do hold festivals as well, namely Jim River Days, each Labor Day weekend, including camping, food, campfires, live music, free youth pheasant hunting, adult pheasant hunting, trap shooting, children activities, pony rides, bouncy house, crafts as well as horseback trail ride!

  • Do you have a favorite quote or saying that motivates you? Self motivational books have been the key to harnessing a work ethic and morals that had been instilled in me since childhood.  “It is important to know what you are good at.  But much more important to know what you are not!”  

  • What books/phone apps/computer software programs have helped you in your business?    Bookkeeping and accounting along with tracking costs of production are the key to any successful business.

  • What advice would you have for someone looking to follow in your footsteps? Going to work is always the most important key to success.  Creating the motivation to go to work is always the first step to achieving any goal.  You can always build, create and achieve goals from there.

  • If you could have a clean slate to start over, what would you do differently in your career?  My family had always served in the US military, my father’s Aunt Jessie (my namesake) served in WWII Army WAC, my father in WWII Army Aircorp, my Uncle Walter Wright in WWII Navy, my oldest brother Jerry joined the Marines in 1960 as he graduated high school, my next brother Wally served in the SD National Guard, my next oldest brother Kenny joined the Marines in 1969 and served in Vietnam.  He was to come home and help my parents on the farm while I would enter the armed services and serve my duty.  In July of 1971, upon returning from his active duty in Vietnam, my brother Kenny committed suicide.  With the devastation of my brother’s death, my parents needing help on the farm and the de-escalation of the Vietnam war, I waited for my draft notice that next winter of 1972 with which I would have joined the Marines.  My draft number was high and was not required to report.  At the time, I thought a blessing, that I would be able to remain on the farm with my parents and help them, not only with the farm which I loved so dearly, but with their sorrow of losing their son so abruptly.  All of my life, I have regretted not having served our military.

Jim River Ranch Lodging
  • What are some of the ways customers can help your business? JRR provides a country atmosphere for individuals and corporations to bring their families, friends, business partners, clients and potential clients to bond and create memories that will last a lifetime!  From September 1 to March 31 each year our guests can enjoy pheasant hunting while with us!  Other activities to enjoy year around are fishing, hiking, horseback riding, ATVing, campfires.  We hold family camping festivals during the year which include children friendly activities, pony rides, bouncy house, crafts, etc, as well as horseback trail rides, live music, campfires, trap shooting, pheasant hunting when in season, etc! 

  • Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you or your business? In review of all above, I feel it may be pretty depressing information, and probably needn’t be shared per se!  However, is the track which led me to where I am today.  I’m guessing that overcoming obstacles, adversity, and other negativity in life, is the key to having a positive outcome.  Accomplished by keeping your sights on a worthwhile goal you have passion for.

  • Where can people find you? Jesse Wright, 605-765-8494 cell, jesse@jimriverranch.com, www.jimriverranch.com 

Pheasant Hunting