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Outdoors with Ken Hunter

by Ken Hunter
Pheasant Hunting – Where to From Here?

For those of us who are old enough, we certainly have fond memories of the "good old days" of pheasant hunting — especially in our part of the state. I remember well heading out into some nearby fields for a couple of hours of pheasant hunting; I didn't have a dog, but I was often able to flush three or four ringnecks and maybe bag a couple. Over time, I made friends with some guys who had good pheasant dogs and our success ratio improved that much more. I'm sure I don't have to tell you, but those days are pretty much gone and I doubt that we will ever see a return to the" good old days".
This piece, however, isn't about what it used to be like, but rather where do we go from here? One could write a whole book on what caused the collapse of our wild pheasant population, but we'll save that for another time. I'm sure there would be disagreement among hunters as to who or what caused the demise of pheasant hunting just as there is still disagreement today as to how we should go forward. Needless to say, the $25 pheasant stamp did not have a great reception — especially among older hunters who bought lifetime licenses. I don't have any statistics at this time but my guess is the stamp sales fell short of expectations.
That being said, here are some of the additional changes that will be seen in the days to come. By now, most hunters are probably aware that two of the four game farms that raised pheasants have been closed. The two remaining pheasants farms have also made another significant change — they are buying day-old chicks rather than keeping breeder birds over the winter, thus resulting in less expense for the commission. The commission will also cut back on the number of birds it will raise and ultimately stock. Over the past few years over 200,000 pheasants were raised and stocked, but this coming year that number will be reduced to 170,000 birds. These changes are expected to save the commission about $1million — previous to these changes, the cost to raise and stock pheasants was at around $5 million.
In addition to the changes already mentioned, you will see a significant change in where pheasants are being stocked. There will be no stocking of pheasants on private lands, and 14 public lands, which include mostly game lands, will get no pheasants. Fortunately for us local hunters, the public lands that will no longer be stocked are in counties to the western, southern and eastern part of the state so it will not have a significant effect on our pheasant hunting locally. A few places, on the other hand, are being added to the stocking list to the benefit of local hunters — game lands 75 in Lycoming County as well as the Lock Haven Water Authority in Clinton County.
It should also be noted that the Pennsylvania Game Commission is likely taking a cue from the Fish and Boat Commission, in that they are going to provide maps on their website that show specific locations where pheasants are being stocked. The Fish and Boat Commission does a similar thing when they publish information on dates, times and exact locations where fish will be stocked right down to the very section of the stream being stocked. The reason the Fish and Boat Commission does this is to provide an opportunity for as much public participation as possible and to encourage a decent harvest rate, or in their terms, a good return on their investment. The Pennsylvania Game Commission would like to do the same — provide the best opportunities possible for as many as possible. The truth is — hunters might as well take the pheasants since I doubt that many stocked birds would be likely to survive anyway.
If you happen to be one who bought a pheasant stamp, good luck this year in bagging some birds — it truly is a fun hunt.

 
 
 
 
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