Jeff Hughes

For 37 years, Jeff Hughes has been the managing partner at Wild Wings of Oneka private hunt club in Hugo. An avid outdoor sportsman, he's on the board of the Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance and the North American Game Bird Association.

Posts about Equipment

Tales from a Game Bird Farm - The Time Bomb

Posted by: Jeff Hughes Updated: October 14, 2009 - 9:59 AM

As I am, I know you’re all anxious for hunting season!  During this time, I like to reflect on where things all begin.  It brings me back to when our farm operated as a hatchery and events that still make me smile.  Read on for some great humor, where it all begins....
The year is 1975, and we had a new employee that I was breaking in.  It was a Friday afternoon and back in these days Friday afternoon was transfer day.  Let me explain: In 1975 during the spring we hatched game birds at Wild Wings Hunt Club (a lot of game birds) primarily ring neck pheasants and mallard ducks.  On transfer day we had to take all of the eggs that were due to hatch out of the incubator and place them in covered hatching trays in the hatching machine.  We did this on Friday because all of the eggs were set to hatch on Monday our shipping day.  The reason that all of the eggs were transferred is because the hatching process is a messy ordeal with chick fluff, egg debris, and egg jelly all over the place.  So the hatchers had to be cleaned and disinfected every week after each hatch.  Now on transfer day, the eggs had been in the incubator turning and warming at a comfortable 99 1/2 degrees for about three weeks; sort of slow cooker, if you will.  Before the eggs went into the incubator, they were all cleaned and disinfected.  Now occasionally a cracked egg or an egg that had sucked in some bacteria would get put into the incubator.  When a cracked egg or contaminated egg gets into an incubator you end up with a very sensitive little time bomb waiting for the slightest movement to go off.

On this particular day Gary (he hadn’t earned his nickname yet) and I were transferring eggs into the hatching machine.  Gary was going on talking about something that had to do with chicks and how cool it was to see young birds, etc.  I mentioned to the young farm boy that he might want to keep his mouth shut and not talk too much during the transferring procedure.  I further explained to him about the potential ticking time bombs we were handling.  He did not heed my warning and continued on in his idle chatter.  I think you know where this is going!  Not five minutes after the warning did we have an egg explode it sounded like a 22 rifle had been fired in the hatchery!  The stench from the exploded duck egg was mortifying, and as I looked up I could see the young boy gagging and running for the door.  You guessed it most of the gelatinous goo, from the exploded egg, had gone right into his mouth.  After losing his lunch outside,  the transferring procedure continued in a reverent silence!  Using this experience as a teaching tool transfer days remained silent from this day forward.  You can’t put a price tag on this kind of fun!  Until we see you again we remain.  Yours for better hunting!  Jeff Hughes

See You in the Fields this Fall - Are you ready?

Posted by: Jeff Hughes Updated: September 16, 2009 - 9:51 AM

With mornings cool and shorter days, I look forward to the pending hunting season with great anticipation.  This time of year finds me going through my pre-fall regimen.  I started running my dogs 3 to 4 times a week about the first of June.  I try and do a mile or two.  This gets myself and the dogs in shape for hunting season.  As September draws near, I start doing some bird work...even the old dogs need a refresher...shooting a few pigeons and then using some game birds.  It is easy to get birds from a local shooting preserve that is open-to-public.  In addition, they usually have a place you can run your dog.  Contact the Department of Natural Resources to get a list of these types of preserves in our state.

Two years ago, we had a really warm opener and I’m sure you heard the reports about many dogs dying in the Dakotas from overheating.  Take some time to get your dog in shape and you could avoid a tragedy like this.  If you don’t have time to work the dog yourself get a hold of a trainer or call a reputable dog handler or friend and get your hunting partner in shape.  It's a worthy investment.


With the pre-season in mind I always do an equipment check;  dog collars with the proper identification, non toxic shot (because you just never know where you will end up), dog food carrier, water dish and 5 gallon water container, dog first aid kit(which includes: E.M.P skin toughened and glue suture, suture kit, disinfectant, some horse bandages, flea, and tick spray, bute, or aspirin, etc).  I get all my clothing gathered and ready for any kind of weather; blaze orange for bird hunting and camo for waterfowl.  I keep my clothing for different types of hunting in plastic tubs with lids and labeled them.  These makes it easy for the next season, as all I have to do is get the tub and check its contents.  I am ready to go!  You can only haul so much gear, but if you plan for the unexpected you shouldn't’t have emergencies you can’t handle.  Also, make sure you coordinate with you hunting buddies.  If one person is taking an extra gun, maybe you don’t need to.  If one of the party is taking a 5 gallon water jug, maybe you don’t need two!  A lot of the excitement and the build of anticipation of a hunt is in the planning and getting ready to go! Don’t miss out on this part of the tradition!  See you in the fields this fall!


Yours for better hunting and Shooting,

      Jeff Hughes
Wild Wings of Oneka, Hugo, MN



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