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Hunting lodge being rebuilt

James “Doc” Monfore, 82, owner of South Dakota Pheasant Acres, a pheasant hunting preserve, shows reporters the foundation of the new hunting lodge on Thursday afternoon west of Armour. The former lodge was destroyed by fire last fall. (Sean Ryan/The Daily Republic)

ARMOUR -- A hunting lodge in rural Armour that was destroyed by fire last fall is being rebuilt and should be ready for use once hunting season opens.

Marty Jensen, general manager of South Dakota Pheasant Acres, a pheasant hunting preserve on about 3,000 acres west of Armour, said in an interview Thursday that the footings for a new two-story, 4,800-square-foot lodge have already been poured and, if the weather cooperates, the rest of the lodge will be finished by August.

"It's really exciting to see things start to happen and see things start to fall in place," Jensen said.

James "Doc" Monfore, the preserve's owner, said the decision to rebuild was made almost immediately after the Nov. 22 fire destroyed the old lodge.

"We decided right away that we weren't about to give up," Monfore said

It's been nearly six months since the old lodge burned down, but Monfore said it is still depressing to think about all that was lost in the fire.

"I did a lot of the work myself," he said. "There were irreplaceable things in there that were really unique and precious, and they're gone."

Monfore bought the land in 1977 and, after a few years of farming, built the old lodge in 1980. Through the years, Monfore has planted native grasses and trees to build up wildlife within the preserve.

A $50,000 remodel of the old lodge had only recently been completed at the old lodge before the fire. Still, Monfore said he and others involved in the preserve are excited to see progress being made on the new lodge. The walls of the new lodge are expected to start going up later this month, Monfore said.

"We're anxious to carry on and get it done," he said. "The memories sure won't be the same, though."

The new lodge will be located a few hundred yards to the east of where the old lodge once stood. And like the old lodge, the new lodge will have its own bar and lounge, as well as a dining area, and a full kitchen.

Monfore estimated the new lodge will cost at least $500,000 to build, but said insurance will help cover the a portion of the expense.

The State Fire Marshal's Office investigated the fire, but no specific cause was ever determined, Jensen said.

At the time of the fire, Jensen told The Daily Republic he suspected a fireplace, left burning by a group of hunters who left the lodge around 2 a.m. the day of the fire, may have been the source of the blaze. But, Jensen said the State Fire Marshal's Office found the fireplace and chimneys were in good repair.

"They just really weren't sure what started it," he said.

Already, the preserve has hunts booked for next fall's pheasant hunting season, Jensen said.

"We'll be going as usual," he said. "It's just going to be a really busy summer.

Monfore said he is confident the new lodge will be ready by the time hunters arrive, but admitted it will be more work than anyone involved with the preserve expected before the fire.

"We had a lot of projects to do, and building a new lodge wasn't one of them," he said.