WILTZ: Hen chicks kicked aside in hatcheriesIn last week’s column, I talked about the prognosis for the 2012 South Dakota pheasant season. I’ve received much feedback, most of which supports hot and dry conditions being better than cold and wet. In general, the ringneck hunting should be better than last year’s.
By: Roger Wiltz, The Daily Republic
In last week’s column, I talked about the prognosis for the 2012 South Dakota pheasant season. I’ve received much feedback, most of which supports hot and dry conditions being better than cold and wet. In general, the ringneck hunting should be better than last year’s.
I did receive a disturbing letter from a lady, who worked for a hatchery. It was her job to “sex” the young chicks or determine whether they were male or female. Once determined, the female chicks were fed into a grinding machine. She wondered if there wasn’t a way to make good use of the female chicks. Her letter prompted me to get in touch with some people who produce, sell or use pen-raised pheasants in their operation.
I began my investigation by talking to a Tabor friend, who is in the pheasant hunting preserve business. They buy chicks that have been sexed in quantities of a thousand at a time. The sexing isn’t perfect, and 15 to 20 percent of the birds turn out to be hens. When the hen chicks are mature enough to fend for themselves, they turn them loose on their property. Their supplier uses its hen chicks, which are eventually released, as breeding stock in their operation.
I next talked to a Burke-based operation that buys sexed chicks, raises them to maturity and then sells them to hunting preserves. Like the Tabor operation, some of the chicks they get, 6 to 10 percent, are hen chicks. Their hens get released or sold. Their hatchery supplier also sells or utilizes the hen chicks.
I specifically asked the Burke operator about the killing of hen chicks. I was told that there is a market for hen chicks, but it isn’t as strong as the rooster market. I was also told that raising pheasant chicks requires valuable space. If the hatchery was a very large operation capable of hatching hundreds of thousands of birds, a space problem could “force” the operator to kill at least some of the hen chicks. Apparently time is more valuable than female chicks.
It appears to me that if a landowner wanted to buy some hen chicks, he or she should notify a hatchery ahead of time. I do know that raising chicks requires space and more heat than we would imagine. I’ve been told that the best flight pens have abundant cover in them such as fire weed so that the chicks can learn about cover. I’ve also heard that flight pens are occasionally under attack by winged predators. This also gives the young birds a taste of the real world.
In South Dakota, our pheasant hunting preserves tend to be large acreages with natural cover and habitat. Some of the birds are wild, and the hunters feel like they are having a wild bird experience. It is big business, good for our economy and I’ll not be critical of it. Preserve owners also replace every bird killed with a live bird.
In eastern states like Wisconsin or Illinois, most preserve shooting is done on small acreages. The birds are released just before the hunters take to the field, and both roosters and hens are released and shot. This presents a market for both male and female chicks. Though this doesn’t sound like much sport to me, it is better than nothing at all. It might also present a good situation for dog training.
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The cow elk hunt idea I presented a few weeks ago attracted far more comments and inquiries than I expected. Because so many people have asked where one books an inexpensive cow elk hunt, I feel I must address the issue.
Typically in the west, the state game and fish people determine how many elk a given piece of property will support. Licenses are then made available to the landowner based on that number. The landowner can then go into the elk hunt business, or turn it over to an outfitter that books, guides, etc., and pays the landowner a piece of the action.
You might recall that I made such a hunt in New Mexico a few years ago. While the outfitter personally guided my partner on a more expensive bull elk hunt, he unlocked a gate for me, pointed at the mountain and told me he would pick me up at the same gate after dark. He would also retrieve my cow elk for me and haul it to the local locker.
As it turned out, I got into a large herd and killed the biggest cow elk in it. For me, there was personal satisfaction in finding my own elk and not getting lost.
I paid New Mexico for the cow tag, and I paid the outfitter $500 for the hunt. We found our hunts in a magazine called Huntin’ Fool (435-865-1020). This excellent magazine is in the business of marketing Western hunts, and the price of a subscription is well worth what Huntin’ Fool can do for you. I’d suggest calling the magazine and telling them exactly what you want. They will put you in touch with a rancher/outfitter.
Right now, I’m taking a hard look at The Lodge at Chama (www.lodgeatchama.com). They offer a cow elk hunt on the 36,000 acre Jicarilla Apache Nation for $1,600. It includes two nights lodging in what are arguably the finest accommodations in America. The package also includes the license, guide, meals, after dinner drinks and hunt. The Lodge will also skin, quarter and cool your elk. All told, this New Mexico hunt in the San Juan Mountains is a bargain. Guys, your wife might also enjoy this hunt.
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Labor Day officially marked the end of the summer season. It also means we Wagnerites have one heck of a parade. What about the parade impressed me the most? The Avon High School marching band! Getting out-of-town high school bands to come to Wagner on Labor Day is next to impossible. The thought of these kids giving up their Labor Day to make people happy is awesome. And they weren’t just there, they were good…..very good.
Remember that our prairie grouse season begins Saturday.
*See you next week.