Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Miller Woman Keeps Watchful Eye On Domestic Pheasant Flock

Huron Daily Plainsman (Huron, South Dakota)
Sunday, December 11, 1966

Caption [photo very poor]:  Pheasant caretaker Mrs. Mary Yost, of Miller, feeding her flock of pheasants which are raised in captivity.  A bird from the flock was presented by Sen. Karl Mundt to the Washington Zoo and is thriving there as a center of attraction in his new captivity.


                Miller – Raising pheasants is the professional concern of the game biologists, but just a hobby “to keep busy with” for Mrs. Mary Yost, of Miller.
                While the biologists seek ways to increase the pheasant population in the native habitat, Mrs. Yost is concerned with the bird population on the Pheasant Farm, started eight years ago as a hobby by her sons Jack Seeman, now of Willmar, Minn., and Jerry Yost, a plumber here in Miller.
                “The boys started raising birds to see if it could be done,” Mrs. Yost related last week while babysitting with her grandchildren.  “Because Jack has moved away and Jerry is busy during the day, I keep watch over the flock for something to do.”
                And raising pheasants in captivity requires a heap of watching at times, too, she added, pulling a grandchild away from a “no-no” in the kitchen.
                The task starts in the fall with the selection of the breeding hens and cocks.  This year the Yosts decided to keep 65 hens for next year’s production.  Then in the spring, the birds are penned (one cock with six or nine hens) and the watch starts.
                “Pheasants are cannibalistic.”  Mrs. Yost explained.  “In pens, the hens don’t nest, so you have to pick up the eggs right away or the hens will eat them.”
                Each hen will lay between 50 and 60 eggs, Mrs. Yost said, compared with game birds which hatches 12 to 15 eggs in her nest.  About half the eggs hatch, she continued.  The eggs are hatched in an incubator, purchased from Claude (Bud) Ebert, who raised pheasants as a hobby when he lived in Huron.  The eggs hatch in about 23 days and then the chicks are placed in brooders for six weeks.
                When they are ready to be moved into the 75-by-125-foot pens, the right wings are clipped (“So they can’t fly away on me,” Mrs. Yost said) and the commercial feed ration is changed to a growing mash with wheat screenings added.
                “You can’t mix the broods in the pens,” she commented, “or they will kill each other.”  Thus the chicks raised in the brooder batch are penned together as young birds.
                The feed ration is varied during the summer to bring the birds to the proper weight (a dressed weight of three to four pounds) and then just before the start of the pheasant hunting season, Mrs. Yost puts a finishing feed in the trought [sic] to “top off” the tender birds.  Then she starts dressing and freezing the birds for her son’s fall trade.
                “For some reason, the business comes during the season, mostly hunters,” she said.  “Few hunters this year, little business.  It varies with the game population.”
                The hunters are not buying birds to claim they bagged one, she explained.  Often the buyers have their limit which will be given to friends to dress and cook while the hunter takes home a domestic pheasant, more tender, cleaned, frozen and without broken bones or shot for his wife to serve, Mrs. Yost said.
                “Oh, sometimes a hunter will ask me to kill one for him to take home as a hunter’s bag,” she said, “but frozen pheasants aren’t part of the limit.”
                In the years of raising pheasants, the family has found nature to be a hazard and that even domestic pheasants can be victims of predators.  One year a windstorm about wiped out the flock and cats prey on the young chicks while dogs are a threat to the bigger birds, Mrs. Yost related.

                “And I have one bird whose wings weren’t clipped, she said.  “She flies from the pen whenever I come out, then returns to eat.  I think my birds finishing feed in the through to [sic] their wings weren’t clipped, but this one likes the security of the pen.”

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