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PA Pheasant Season Kicks Off October 22

October 20, 2016
PAGC

HARRISBURG, PA - A memorable season in which more birds will be released statewide awaits Pennsylvania's pheasant hunters. And as scary as it might seem, without a license-fee increase in the very near future, this might well be the last year the Game Commission releases pheasants for hunters.

The pheasant season kicks off statewide October 22.

In total, about 240,000 pheasants about 25,000 more than last year are scheduled for release statewide for the 2016-17 seasons.

The increase is due to several factors that have come together for the benefit of hunters.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission has planned some changes to its pheasant-propagation program to cut costs. Instead of raising chicks from breeder pheasants at the Game Commission's game farms, the agency in 2017 plans to begin purchasing day-old chicks from private propagators.

The move is expected to save more than $200,000 annually, but this year also contributes to an increased number of pheasants released, since birds that would have been kept as breeders instead can be released on public-hunting grounds.

Additionally, the Game Commission purchased about 15,000 day-old chicks this year in a test run to ensure its program could operate smoothly if it transitions to purchasing all chicks to be raised. Those birds will be released, as well.

And while the agency took deliberate action to reduce production due to the anticipated increases from the release of breeder birds and the chicks that were purchased, this year experienced the highest hatch rate in recent memory.

All of this adds up to more pheasants afield in 2016-17.

"Against all odds, Pennsylvania's pheasant hunters once again have plenty to be excited about this year," said Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough. "It's no secret the Game Commission has been navigating some rough financial waters; 17 years without one adjustment for inflation to our primary source of revenue the hunting license will do that.

"We have been forced as an agency to make many cuts to staff and programs, and moves to make the pheasant propagation program less costly are among these," he said. "Fortunately for pheasant hunters, however, those moves will result this year in more ringnecks released statewide, adding even more excitement to some of the best hunting action around.

"But the future of pheasant hunting in Pennsylvania might not be as bright," Hough said.

About 17,000 pheasants are scheduled for release for the weeklong junior-only season, which begins Oct. 8. Then, in mid-October several consecutive weekly releases of pheasants will begin, to be followed by a late-season release of hen pheasants.

The statewide pheasant season begins Oct. 22 and runs through Nov. 26, then reopens on Dec. 12, ending on the last day of February.

The additional releases of birds that were purchased as chicks or would have been maintained as breeding stock should be noticeable, said Robert C. Boyd, who oversees the Game Commission's pheasant propagation program.

"These extra birds are being stocked during the second, third and fourth in-season releases, and the winter release," Boyd said. "So while releases ahead of the junior season and statewide opener will continue to provide the typical early-season action, those who keep hunting through the season also are bound to encounter increased flushes and sustained opportunity to harvest pheasants," Boyd said.

The best pheasant-hunting habitat and hunter access occur on more than 230 tracts of state game lands and other public lands under cooperative management with the Game Commission, and about 75 percent of the pheasants are stocked there.

The remaining 25 percent are released on private lands enrolled in the Game Commission's Hunter Access Program.

The Game Commission stocks pheasants as a service to its hunters. The program cost $4.3 million last year, but it has its benefits.

Nearly 100,000 hunters participate in pheasant hunting in Pennsylvania, racking up nearly 400,000 hunter days and contributing $30 million to $40 million to the state's economy. And surveys have indicated nearly 80 percent of hunters support the pheasant stocking program.

A wealth of information on ring-necked pheasants, the Game Commission's pheasant management program, and stockings statewide can be found at www.pgc.pa.gov by searching "pheasant allocation."

 
 

 

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