Chad Hughes knew what he was getting into 20 years ago when the Wings North hunting club opened in Pine City. His father, Jeff Hughes has been running Wild Wings of Oneka in Hugo for many years, and the family had a cabin near Pine City since the early 1980s, so Chad was familiar with both hunting as a business and the local area.
“I was born and raised in the hunting industry,” Chad said. “I’ve been doing it my whole life.”
But even so, Chad was ... reluctant at first. He chuckled as he recalled a phone call between himself and his father:
“We’re going to buy a new hunting club.”
“I hope it goes well.”
“I want you to run it.’
The matter might have ended there, but three days later Jeff called his son back and asked: What if we gave you the option of buying in as a full partner?
“Working for yourself versus working for someone else,” Chad said, remembering. “Twenty years later, here we are.”
He said the hunting club has been expanding over time, adding properties and amenities as they go.
“Where we’re at right now is probably where I wanted to be in 10 (years),” Chad said, laughing. “We’ve got three trap fields now, a sporting clays course, rifle and pistol range. We operate on 489 acres now, so we’ve got 20 different hunting fields that we operate on. Dog training and everything else. Membership has been going wonderfully.”
He estimates that a little over 10,000 visitors come to Wings North each year, with about 90% of their guests coming from the Twin Cities and Duluth, with about 10% local – including trap teams from Pine City High School and Pine Technical and Community College that call Wings North home base.
“The high school trap team has done a resurgence,” he said. “Pine City has 93 kids shooting in it, and we’re very fortunate that they shoot here.”
Beyond business, Chad said he’s proud to call Pine City home.
“Pine City is a great community to raise a family, so I’ve been very fortunate,” Chad said. “It has been really good – it’s fun. And we just appreciate the local support from Pine City.”