Set along the mighty Missouri River, Big Bend Ranch is a full wildlife experience that welcomes hunters into the rolling hills of South Dakota for complete hunting excursions. With over 5,600 acres of prosperous farm and ranch land, Nick Falk has worked to cultivate the perfect atmosphere for hunting and wildlife preservation.
“We started using aerators 15 years ago when we started keeping water open for waterfowl,” Nick said. In South Dakota, where Nick’s ranch is, the river freezes up, and migrating birds need a place to rest. “We decided to create our own space for them,” Nick said. “So we kept a pool open, but it wasn’t enough. We came across the Air-O-Lator Commercial Aerator and boy, do they do a good job. We have some pretty serious wind chills here in South Dakota. We’ve had our ponds completely freeze over, but the aerators keep running underneath the ice, and we take a sledgehammer and open up the water, and it’s cleared in minutes.”
Nick hosts hunters throughout the year at his lodge and takes guests on hunting excursions. Naturally, this means that he has to make sure the ducks, geese, and other birds feel welcome as well. Nick needed a deicer that could withstand the brutal cold of South Dakota and keep the ponds clear for the hundreds of migrating ducks and geese that visit his land.
Since 2004, Nick and his team have used two half-horsepower “Ice-Away” deicers and two 3-horsepower Aquarian Commercial Aerators. The aerators and de-icers are critical for providing essential aeration and mix to maintain water quality, and keeping the water open to provide sanctuary for the ducks and geese.
We’re not talking about just a few ducks and geese either. At any point, there can be 100 geese to 10,000 on Nick’s land in the fall. They keep the water clear for geese as a means of wildlife preservation. That means just as much contaminated water as well. The waste produced by the ducks and geese is detrimental to the ecosystem and environment. By aerating and mixing the water, Air-O-Lator aerators and de-icers are maintaining water quality and balance.
“We’re in the commercial hunting business, but not waterfowl,” Nick said. “We do this to give these birds more protection. We never hunt around there. We treat these ducks and geese with love and try to keep them as unbothered as possible.”
In the ten years Nick has spent managing the land, he said their most significant issue in South Dakota is wind more so than ice. They anchor their aerators by stringing the cable 100 yards across each shore. “We always do that just in case we have a mechanical problem,” Nick said. “But to date, other than age and pumps going bad, we’ve never lost an aerator due to ice—even in subzero temps they keep purring on.”
“I wish I had ten more of them!” Nick said. “We’re limited on electrical capacity. We’ve tried everything from generators with light heaters to commercial aerators, and everything in between, and Air-O-Lator’s deicers and aerators are the only equipment that I would use going forward.”