Third annual Perham Sportsman's Club pheasant release Saturday, July 24
What started out as a three-man operation raising and releasing 1,200 pheasants has exploded sevenfold in three years.
The combined efforts of the Perham Sportsman's Club contributed to this year's release of 8,400 birds.
In 2008, Craig Swanson and two friends wanted to raise 100 birds each. Simply by word of mouth, interest spread throughout the community.
"Before you knew it, we ordered 1,200 birds," Swanson said.
Cal Dockter offered the use of his barns to raise the birds, while others volunteered equipment and the three-man operation was on its way. But success did not come right away.
"We learned a lot that first year."
The trio lost approximately 20 percent of the birds, a high mortality rate. But that still left 80 percent to the good.
"The ones that did release blew us away," Swanson said. "We had birds that got released we saw the next spring."
Raising a lot of birds in one barn has the same issues of crowding any animal, or humans, for that matter. They tend to get aggressive.
Feeding and proper lighting are necessary to assure a comfortable early life for the birds. For this, the help of an expert was needed.
What turned the corner for organizers, or who, really, was Dick Dykhoff,
Dykhoff, now retired, raised pheasants for a living. It was his pointers that steered the club in the right direction.
By the second year, the population had grown to 6,300 birds and the club rented Dockter's facilities.
"You have to dim the lights down as they get older," said Swanson. "Better feed, better water, every scenario was better."
The birds were released at seven weeks in the third week of June 2009. But last year's cool summer did little to help some of the birds find cover.
"We released too early. There was no cover, the corn was low and so was the tall grass."
The places where birds survived, a lot of them did flourish but many died due to predator issues.
That will not be the case this summer. The 8,400 birds, according to Swanson are the best looking and biggest birds yet.
"We just get smarter as we go. We're better at feeding and had our lowest mortality yet."
Much of the local cover is in place to shelter the birds from predators. Local corn is eight-feet tall,
"There's not an eagle or owl that can get at 'em from the top side."
There are still a number of birds left for purchase for interested parties who want to release pheasants on their own land.
Birds are cheaper than last year--available for $2 each. For those who would like to sponsor a bird, due to having no place to release it, birds are available for a sponsorship fee of $1 and will be released on the 160 acres of Perham Sportsman's Club land on Fort Thunder Road.
The birds will be released Saturday, July 24, at 7 a.m. at the Cal Dockter turkey barns located on Fort Thunder Road, approximately 1.25 miles west of Highway 78.
All funds from the release will be allocated to two Sportsman's Club projects: a future barn to house the pheasants and a clubhouse on the club property.
About 20 birds can fit in a dog kennel for those interested in purchasing or the club does loan release crates.
This year's population will be released at eight-weeks-old due to recent storms in the area.
To purchase or sponsor pheasants contact Craig Swanson by email or phone at email@example.com or 218-347-7929 or 218-346-2121.