FORT RANSOM, N.D. – It has come to a point in the season where Brad Swenson starts wrapping up some projects for the year. The population continues to increase in the flight pens as more birds are moved outside every two weeks. In order to accomplish that, he is now in the process of finishing up the repair on flight pens that were damaged by the weather last fall, as well as replacing the chicken wire that goes around the bottom of each pen.
This is also the time when the orders are taken for the hunting birds – when they will be delivered and to what buyer.
“By now the customers we have for fall hunting birds pretty much know how many birds they are going to need and it looks like the birds are pretty much all booked up for the season,” he said. “When you count the pheasants, quails and partridges, it comes to about 120,000-125,000 birds that we hatched this year and that puts us a few thousand chicks ahead of the number we have been hatching for the last three or four years.
“They are starting to go through a lot of feed right now. They are probably going through 14-15 tons of feed a week. It has kept neighbor Wyatt (Wyatt Weight, a neighbor who helps on the farm) pretty busy mixing up feed. The grower and finisher feeds we make ourselves and they contain millet, soybean meal and the base mix that we get from LaMoure Feed and Seed and that contains the vitamins, minerals and other things the feed needs.”
Next year should see another increase in chicks hatched when they start raising Hungarian partridges in addition to the pheasants.
“That will be our winter project – working on the breeding facilities for the Hungarian partridges,” he said.
As more birds are moved out to the flight pens, it means less labor is required and that worked out fine since Aug. 2 was Wyatt’s last day of work. He’ll be taking a week of vacation with his family before football practice and school start up in LaMoure.
The bird population will start declining around the first part of September, when some of the birds are due to be shipped out. Shipping becomes more concentrated in October and the early part of November.
“There is about a six-week period when 80 percent of the birds are shipped,” Brad noted.
The 2019 pheasant season opens on Oct. 12, and will run through Jan. 5, 2020. The week before the regular season opener there is a special week of hunting just for youth, and Brad gets many orders to have pheasants in place by the time of the youth hunt.
“We have a lot of youth hunts that we have to get birds to. Some of those locations are Williston, Devils Lake, Minot, Grand Forks, Lisbon and a Fargo club,” he said. “They are all the same day and the clubs buy extra roosters and set out to let the youth hunt.”
Finally, this does seem to be the time for vacations. For this visit we caught up with Brad and his wife, Leah, as they were driving through the Black Hills and on their way to Yellowstone Park as they are taking a week’s vacation before pheasant delivery time arrives.