Pheasant enthusiasts start club again, raise 2,000 birds; Association has hopes for walk-in hunting

Pheasant enthusiasts start club again, raise 2,000 birds; Association has hopes for walk-in hunting areas by M. Jill Karolevitz South Dakota is rich with tradition, including its fall pheasant hunting season.

To keep the spirit alive, members of the Southeastern South Dakota Pheasant Association raised and released 2,000 young pheasants this year.

Like the state�s pheasant population, the association has experienced highs and lows over the years. It began in 1984, and for seven years members raised and released thousands of birds in the area. But interest waned to a point of inactivity � until last February.

�A group of us wanted to get this club rolling again and in February, we decided to raise 2,000 birds for the year 2000. We also made plans for a banquet in April to help raise money for the project,� said Ken Stoos, a member of the reborn association which now has 168 members � a big difference from 34 in 1984. �We were surprised at the support from the community, not only with the number of people who came to the banquet, but from the donations as well. It was overwhelming and wonderful.�

As the year progressed, the association prepared for its pheasant-raising project, building pens on the property of six different members.

�The pen building was an interesting process,� Stoos said. �You have to do everything you can to make them predator-proof.�

�We learned a lot from the people who had raised pheasants before,� added Mark Podany, the association�s vice president. �It�s simple to raise pheasants, but the biggest challenge is making sure they aren�t over-crowded, so we built bigger pens than they had in the past.�

Podany was one of six association members to raise the birds. Jerry Nygaard, Mike Chaney, Jeff Kratz, Phillip Iverson and Tom Hall had birds on their property as well.

The Southeastern South Dakota Pheasant Association purchased its birds from Swanson�s Hunting Acres in Niobrara, NE, at the end of May.

�We paid 75 cents bird � straight run � meaning we got both roosters and hens,� said Jeff Mart, treasurer of the association. �In all, we figured our costs for the birds, along with feed and supplies for building the pens, totaled about $6,793. But our expenses will be less next year, now that the pens are in place.�

In the beginning, the tiny pheasants are isolated in brooder houses with heat lamps as the only source of light. After two weeks, the brooder houses are opened so the birds can go in and out as they please.

Swanson�s is certified for bird health, but the young pheasants must be fed medicated feed for four to five weeks. As they mature, they get a higher protein ration.

�We had a lot of help from Wayne Thedorff at Dalesburg Farm Supply,� Podany said. �He helped research the type of feed we needed.

�The pheasants must be fed and watered twice a day,� he added. �There�s not much to it after they get a little bigger. But they must also be misted at about four to five weeks of age if it�s dry. That helps get their oil glands working to help their feathers shed water.�

At eight weeks of age, the birds are ready for release.

�Releases were staggered, in other words, we didn�t set them free all at once,� Podany said. �We let about 150 go at a time.

�Most of them were released at dusk so that they�d fly out and stay quiet,� he continued. �If you do it any earlier in the day they have a tendency to fly out and start making noise, which alerts predators.�

Catching the birds for release was a bit of a challenge, Podany added.

�The birds are pretty wild,� he said. �We used fish nets to gather them up and it took about eight to 10 people to corner four or five birds at a time.�

He was also pleased with final numbers.

�Our success ratio was great,� Podany said. �We get an extra 8 percent from Swanson�s for mortality and I think that was about all we lost. It was hard to count them as we gathered them up, but I�m pretty sure we raised the 2,000 birds that we wanted to. And although they�re not as wild as native pheasants, not one has returned to the places where they were raised.�

�These birds are mature enough now for this year�s pheasant season,� Mart said. �We�ve heard from farmers around the area that they�ve seen them in the areas where they were released and they say they�ve been coloring up nicely.�

Plans in the future are to band the pheasants raised by the association to keep better track of their success.

Although their work with the birds is finished for the season, members of the Southeastern South Dakota Pheasant Association continue to look ahead to other activities. They will raise birds again next year, continue hosting trap shoots for youngsters at the Clay County Sportsmen�s Club and another banquet will be held in the spring.

�Our long-term goals include promoting the development of habitat areas for pheasants, along with increasing their population,� Mart said. �We�d like to eventually purchase property for a public walk-in hunting area as well.�

�We want to help get the pheasant count up and establish an area where people can go in and hunt without having to pay for it,� Stoos added. �That�s why everyone put in all this time and effort. But we didn�t really do it for ourselves. We want the next generation to enjoy hunting, too. That�s what this is all about.�

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