Field research |

Field research

Laugh Tracks in the Dust
Milo Yield
Damphewmore Acres, Kan.

In recent weeks I’ve cited some off-the-wall scientific research studies. I’ve also mentioned that it’s difficult to believe a lot of research “findings” because of the high possibility that the results are suspect because of the source of the research funding.

However, this week I heard about some “field” research conducted in southwestern Iowa by “researchers” who are definitely not biased, even though they don’t wear white laboratory coats and, instead, wear brightly colored feathers.

Okay, I confess that the “researchers” were a flock of wild pheasants who reside on the Iowa farm of ol’ Rayse deBarrows, an Iowa farmer who breeds show pigs for a living and hunts pheasants as a hobby.

Ray’s field research was told to me by my close friend and fishing companion, ol’ Finn N. Fuhrs, a farmer, wildlife biologist, and habitat consultant from Americus, Kan.

Finn and I took a little day trip last week to a suburban lake southeast of Kansas City where we met Bill deDox, an entrepreneur from Clifton Hill, Mo., who has a business of installing boat docks and selling dock components. Finn bought a couple of floats from Bill to repair and re-float the fishing dock on his wonderful watershed lake.

Well, on the return trip our conversation evolved to a discussion about which plants comprise the best wildlife food plots for conservationists to plant. Finn said if he included corn in a wildlife food plot, he’d plant non-GMO corn and that led him to describe his Iowa friend Ray’s simple “field research.”

As the breeder of high quality show pigs, Ray strives to feed them the very best. And he got to wondering if genetically-modified, or trait-stacked corn, was as good for his pigs has non-GMO corn.

Since he lacked both the pig numbers and the quantities of each kind of corn to do a replicated study, he decided to do a “taste preference test” with the flock of wild pheasants that resides on his farm. So, during the depth of winter when the pheasants’ dietary needs were highest, Ray took two buckets of corn to the heart of his pheasant habitat — one GMO and one non-GMO — and he carefully spaced alternating hands-full of each corn down on the ground.

Two days later he checked the taste preferences of his pheasant flock. Much to his surprise, Ray found his pheasants had licked up every kernel of the non-GMO corn and left the piles of GMO corn untouched.

Now, I certainly don’t know for sure what Ray’s corn taste test proves from a nutritional research point of view. But, what I do know is that the pheasants had no pre-ordained knowledge of “research,” but very plainly and simply proved their preference for non-GMO corn. We’ll never know the reason for their preference.

It’s too bad us humans can’t differentiate between the tastes of the two types of corn. Nor do we really have a choice since GMO corn is found in almost every kind of processed foods. All we can do is hope a flock of pheasants doesn’t have better instinctly nutritional knowledge than we humans do.


Ol’ Finn grew up on a diversified farm close to my old stomping grounds in southeast Kansas, not far from the wide-spot-in-the-road, Strauss. While I drove on our trip to Kansas City, Finn started telling stories about hunting raccoons when he was growing up.

Here’s a classic coon hunting story, I “kid” you not: Finn and a teenaged buddy were going “coon racing” one summer evening. Since the furs were out-of-season, they were just going to have fun exercising their hounds. Well, it turned out that Finn’s little brother begged to tag along and the two teens finally allowed him to accompany them.

Before long, their hounds barked treed along the banks of a small creek that had only shallow holes of water in it. When they found the hounds, they could see with their flashlights the raccoon perched in the closest fork in the limbs. Now, what they needed was a way to get the varmint to jump from the tree while they momentarily held the hounds and provide a “hot” chase.

So, naturally, as big brothers are prone to do, Finn directed his little brother to shimmy up the tree and provoke the coon to bail out. After some coaxing about being a sissy, little brother headed up the tree. The coon climbed higher. After more coaxing, little brother climbed higher, too. Then the coon went to the very tip of a small limb that arched out over the stream. With a little more coaxing, little brother scooted farther out on the limb.

Crash! Down came raccoon, limb, and little brother — plummeting through some lower limbs which partially broke their fall — right into the waist-deep creek. Naturally, big brother was laughing so hard the hounds pulled the leashes from his hands. Also, when the hounds dove into the water, the coon sought the highest place for protection — which was on top of little brother’s head.

After a brief, but intense, melee that lasted only a few seconds, the coon got to the bank and headed out on the run with the hounds baying hotly behind.

Little brother glared at his big brother and abruptly announced, “I hate coon hunting. I’m going home.” And he did. He left Finn with only a story to tell.


Words of encouragement for the week. Get well soon Mad Jack Hanks. Mad Jack is a fellow columnist from Colorado who broke his leg last week when he got bucked off his horse. I’ve never met Mad Jack, but I can tell by his columns that we are kindred spirits of similar ages. While I’m at it, I might as well wish Tex, another old Colorado buddy, a speedy recovery from his horse-related accident.

Guys, maybe you’re at an age when you ought to stick to “stick” horses. Mend fast! Have a good ‘un. ❖

Milo Yield

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