HARRISBURG – Although weather problems have placed the trapping of wild pheasants in Midwestern States on hold for release in the Pennsylvania Game Commission Wild Pheasant Recovery Areas, PGC Bureau of Wildlife Management director Cal DuBrock said at the agency's quarterly meeting in January that plans are on schedule for stocking birds for this year's hunting seasons.
Those plans include the annual program for sportsmen's organizations with approved propagation facilities to augment local ring-necked pheasant stockings and increase localized hunting opportunities by raising one-day old pheasant chicks supplied free-of-charge by the PGC.
Information and applications to participate can be downloaded from the agency's website at www.pgc.state.pa.us, and in order for Game Farm superintendents to plan and set hatches to accommodate requests the Bureau of Wildlife Management must receive completed applications by Saturday, March 31.
"We do not stock Game Farm-raised pheasants into WPRAs, and do not allow any propagated pheasants to be released in these areas," DuBrock said. "While we strive to establish self-sustaining pheasant populations in WPRAs, we continue to urge interested clubs to participate in our pheasant chick program.
"This also provides wonderful opportunities to get young people involved in raising birds. In addition to learning about the food and habitat requirements of pheasants, they'll have the chance to see the chicks mature into adult game birds, and to help increase local pheasant hunting opportunities."
In 1929, the PGC began the propagation of pheasants on an extensive scale with the establishment of two game farms.
Over the next six decades, to off-set the increasing demand for pheasants from hunters, three other farms were placed into operation, and the day old pheasant chick program was implemented and made available to sportsmen's organizations, 4-H clubs, farmers, and other co-operators for rearing and releasing on areas open to public hunting.
In 1959, the number of pheasant chicks distributed to co-operators reached 229,685, an all-time high, in addition to the more than 88,500 pheasants raised and released by the agency.
Unfortunately, co-operator participation has dwindled significantly over the last few decades. In recent years, only a dozen or so clubs have participated; raising and releasing 4,000-5,000 birds.
Because of budgetary constraints, in 2005 the PGC was forced to reduce its annual pheasant stocking allocation from 200,000 to 100,000, however, as part of the agency's pheasant management plan and the recent realization of increased revenues from Marcellus shale natural gas development on State Game Lands, the agency intends to increase that stocking effort to 200,000 birds this fall.
DuBrock said this is allowing the agency to continue providing, free of charge, day-old pheasant chicks to clubs entering into an agreement with the PGC to raise birds and promote recreational hunting on lands open to public hunting.
Gender is not determined as the chicks are boxed for distribution, but are generally at a one-to-one male/female ratio, and the number of chicks received depends on the size of the club's facility.
Also, the agency will provide enrolled clubs with plans for a brooder building, covered pen, and guidelines for rearing pheasants.
Through the end of March, the agency offers enrolled organizations technical assistance and advice at the club's facility, and a training session and overview of agency game farm operations can be scheduled during the off-season to assist in development of the club's program.
To be eligible to receive pheasant chicks, a sportsmen's club is required to have a minimum of 25 square feet of covered pen space available per bird, and 72 square inches of floor space per chick is recommended in the brooder building.
All feed and expenses incurred in the work of constructing covered pens and raising pheasants will be the responsibility of the club.
All pheasants propagated by organizations must be released on lands open to public hunting, but pheasant chicks can be raised at the co-operator's facility or by a designated caretaker with the proper facilities.