Upland hunters can look forward to some pheasant and rabbit action this Saturday when the first of three pheasant and rabbit hunting season opens. It’s one of three seasons where this initial season runs Oct. 22-Nov. 12 and Sunday, Nov. 13, the latter is one of two Sunday small game hunting opportunities.
If you read last week’s column, it was explained that the once popular pheasant season is not what it was 20-30 years ago when the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) stocked local farm and private lands that were part of the PGCs Farm-Game Co-Op program. It was subsequently replaced with the Hunter Access Program that has similar functions. The former would allow the agency to stock farms and private lands with pheasants and in turn the owners would get pine and shrub seedlings to plant on their property and be given signs to post to denote their lands were open to hunting, plus other benefits.
Today, the majority of lands that get stocked with birds are state lands. This is attributed in part to development of farm lands and loss of habitat.
In Lehigh County, only State Game Lands #205 in Lowhill Township receives birds according to the PGCs stocking map.
The PGC says they have or will have stocked 11,750 males and 4,340 females for the Junior Hunt; 120,170 males and 44,170 females for pre and in-season; and 41,630 males and 15, 400 females for the winter season here in the Southeast Region.
When consulting the PGCs website pheasant stocking map, SGL #205 received eight releases of 4,310 birds in 2021.
Despite these numbers, there is a survival rate that considers predation by hawks, owls, foxes, and coyotes. The PGC says that overall, 53 percent of males and 41.1 percent of females were harvested. Harvest rates were similar between other public properties (50.7 percent) and SGLs (48.7 percent), but were significantly higher than harvest rates on Hunter Access properties (37.3 percent).
For hunters with a hunting dog, your chances are better of scoring as these planted birds, despite the PGC’s best effort to keep them wild while being raised, have a tendency to run instead of fly. A good pointer can solve this.
As for rabbits, I contend there are more in parts of the city of Allentown than there are in the farmland fields and woodlands. Perhaps the reason for the latter is that a growing population of coyotes and foxes in suburbia have kept their once high numbers in check.
LIL-LE-HI TROUT NURSERY GETS RAINBOWS
For the past five years, the Lil-Le-Hi trout nursery in Allentown did not receive rainbow trout from the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission for rearing and stocking. Reason being, there was a rash of gill lice affecting rainbows. But after the PFBC did a 30-day study of a sampling of trout at the nursery and finding no lice, the agency deposited 11,400 rainbow fingerlings last Wednesday into a rearing tank at the nursery. “These fish will grow and be stocked in area streams in two years,” said James Schneck, a member of Pioneer Fish & Game Association and a nursery volunteer worker. In addition, the PFBC also sent 125 sizeable golden rainbow trout to be stocked next year.
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.