Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pheasant Hunters Should Seek Stocked Lands

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

At first glance, Pennsylvania's pheasant hunting season doesn't seem like much to get excited about.

Wild birds are scarce to nonexistent in most places. The Pennsylvania Game Commission is, because of budget cuts, stocking 108,000 birds, half as many as a decade ago. The number of pheasant hunters is down dramatically, with most of those remaining crowded onto public lands.

But plenty of diehard bird hunters remain, and they are surely looking forward to Saturday's opening day.

"Though wild pheasants have vanished across most of Pennsylvania's landscape, thousands of pheasant hunters and the state haven't lost interest in the bird," says a season forecast for Pennsylvania put out by Pheasants Forever, the nation's largest pheasant-conservation organization. "Hunters and their dogs get their field time in through the state's put-and-take hunting."

That will definitely be the case again this season.

Wildlife conservation officers across the region say that pheasant hunting will be fair to good, but only on those lands that get stocked with birds. The commission and Pheasants Forever are working to re-establish wild pheasant populations in a couple of places, but if and until that works, stocked birds remain the only option.

Typical is the assessment of the upcoming season offered by Daniel Sitler, the commission's officer in northern Washington County.

"Most hunting should be focused on lands stocked with pheasants," he said. "Game lands and a few public-access properties offer the best bang for the buck. Wild populations remain low in the northern part of Washington County, and therefore the hunting will remain poor. The stocked areas will be good."

The season starts Saturday and runs through Nov. 27. The daily limit is two birds. Only male pheasants are legal game in wildlife management units 2A, 2B, 2C, 4C, 4E, 5A and 5B. Male and female pheasants are legal game in all other units.

The commission will stock birds Wednesday, then again Oct. 28 or 29 and Nov. 4 or 5. A third in-season stocking will be conducted Nov. 10 in areas surrounding the Somerset, Central Susquehanna and Hegins-Gratz Valley wild pheasant recovery areas.

Of the 108,000 birds to be stocked, 16,800 were already released for the junior season. Several thousand more are being held for the late season that opens in mid-December.

The result is only a little more than 80,000 birds will be put out for the bulk of the season. That's prompted a change in how much information is shared about those stockings.

"As financial considerations have forced us to reduce the number of pheasants we are stocking, it was decided that we should provide hunters with additional information to assist them in deciding when and where to hunt those pheasants stocked," said commission executive director Carl Roe.

Pheasant hunting will again be, as Lawrence County conservation officer Jeffery Kendell said, "strictly put and take."


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