Swenson Gamebirds

Brad Swenson (left) and Brent Hebl show some of the mature pheasants that they are now shipping out for hunting. Photo by Leah Swenson. 

FORT RANSOM, N.D. – The shipping out of pheasants has picked up quite a bit during the final week of September, shipping out more birds than what they normally would at this time of year historically, according to Brad Swenson.

“This upcoming weekend (Oct. 5-6) is the youth opener for pheasants in North Dakota,” Brad said. “We have four different clubs that are having big youth hunts and we supply birds to them. One is in Devils Lake, and the club at Minot is coming down to pick up their birds on Friday. The Pheasants Forever Club in Fargo is having a big youth hunt, as well. That hunt will take place at the Stiklestad Lodge (just outside of Fort Ransom), but they won’t need their birds until Saturday morning. We will load about 1,500 birds this week and we’ll have more shipped out now than I thought we would at this point.”

Several hunting groups use the pheasant hunting weekend to interest youth in hunting and getting them involved. The number of youth taking part in opening weekend activities is declining slightly each year and Brad feels that is due to the many other activities youth are involved in these days.   

He explained how the average youth pheasant hunt works by giving details of the one that takes place at the Stiklestad Lodge, which is held just a few miles from his farm. This hunt is sponsored by the Pheasants Forever chapter out of Fargo and several youth from the Fargo area will gather at the lodge early in the morning of Oct. 5. Another group from Fargo, the North America Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVHDA), are volunteering their time and will be coming out with some hunting dogs.

They take three or four kids at a time out to the field and the NAVHDA people will serve as the guides and they’ll hunt for an hour or so. By having that small of a group of kids, they can teach them more and everyone can get some shooting time in.

In other activities, all of the barns are now empty and Brad is waiting for the fields to dry out a little so the barns can be cleaned and the manure can be hauled out and spread. But that may take a while. The last few days in September had several rain events go through the area and the fields that were just starting to dry out are now waterlogged in many areas.

“It is completely saturated again. We were just ready to start doing some harvest, but now things are soaked up pretty good again,” he explained. “Usually we clean the barns out in October so things are ready to go for next year. It is really good fertilizer – there isn’t a whole lot of material since they don’t produce manure like cattle do, but it is definitely good fertilizer. I have a couple spots where I put food plots every year and that is all I put on there for fertilizer and those food plots do really well every year.”

Those food plots are sorghum strips for the wild pheasants in the area to eat on, and it also provides a place to hunt.

In the past few weeks the farm has been shipping from 1,000-1,500 birds per week, but later on in October that number will get as high as 3,000 or more per week. Then around the end of November that number will drop off to a 1,000 birds per week until they are all shipped out.  

Brad recently found out about a farm on the East Coast that has been raising Hungarian partridges for several years. He is thinking about taking a trip out there in early winter and see how this farm has their facility set up.

“If someone has it already figured out, it is better to just do it the way they are doing it, because doing something new by yourself can get rather expensive if things don’t go right.”

We’ll conclude our visits with Brad next issue as he shares his plans for opening a game preserve near the Stiklestad Lodge that will include not only pheasants, but also Hungarian partridges. He will also outline the work that will need to be done to start raising partridges on the farm.

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