Twenty and more years ago Pennsylvania hunters would look forward to the opening of the pheasant hunting season that opens statewide on Saturday, Oct. 21 with split seasons. I say “would” because this exciting gamebird has seen its demise in several forms.
According to Bob Danenhower of Bob’s Taxidermy Shop in Orefield, who used to raise pheasants and a historian of sorts of the good old days, wild pheasants are non-existent because of several factors. Namely, some due to loss of habitat, predation by owls, hawks, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, opossums who would raid pheasant nests, and of course pesticides. The wild pheasant strain became diluted when the Pennsylvania Game Commission stocked pen raised hen pheasants that would lay eggs then walk away from them so no wild propagation resulted. And stocked birds don’t have the wildness despite the PGC’s effort to maintain a wild, hardy strain in stocked birds.
In my experience growing up in West Catty, my parents and I would often see wild pheasants in our back yard that would feast on bird seed my mother would put out for birds. Those pheasants would come from what we called the West Catty woods and farmland adjacent to the oil tank farm in the township and mall that houses Dicks Sporting Goods, Giant grocery store and others off MacArthur Road.
In fact, I remember as a youngster joining my grandfather and uncle as we hunted pheasant in the large cornfield that is now the Whitehall Mall.
Many years ago, in his outdoors column, the late Charlie Neff, who was very active with the Lehigh Valley Conservancy, would write about taking the trolley from Allentown with his shotgun to hunt pheasant in the farmlands in Fogelsville. Try that on a bus today and the SWAT team would be called out. Ah, the good ole days.
Despite all this, pheasant hunting does exist thanks to the PGCs pre and inseason pheasant stocking program of pen raised hens and males. But unlike past times, when the PGC sponsored a Farm-Game Co-Op when farmers would open their farmlands to hunters in return for pine tree seedlings and pheasant stocking, that program name was changed to Public Access Cooperator. So when hunters see these very few signs, permission from the landowners must be given before hunting there.
But today, PGC primarily stocks pheasants on State Game Lands (SGL) and state-owned properties.
In Lehigh County SGL #205 was stocked Oct. 5-6 with 480 cockbirds (C) and 180 hens (H) for the Youth Hunt. Then a pre-season stocking took place Oct. 18-20, 390-C, 140-H followed by; 1st inseason the week of Oct. 24-27, 490-C, 180-H; 2nd inseason, Oct. 31-Nov. 3, 390-C, 150-H; 3rd inseason, Nov. 6-9, 390-C, 150-H; 4th inseason, Nov. 15-17, 370-C, 140-H.
Down in Berks County, SGL #106, #280, Blue Marsh, French Creek State Park – Big Woods Tract received pre-season with the same above dates that consisted of; pre-season, 890-C, 320-H; 1st inseason, 1,120-C, 400-H; 2nd inseason, 920-C, 340-H; 3rd inseason, 910-C, 330-H; 4th inseason, 910-C, 330-H.
Both counties will have additional winter stockings that will begin Dec. 13-15 and other dates that we’ll list in a future column. Unfortunately, Northampton County receives no stocked birds although some local sportsmen’s clubs stock them on their properties.
Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.