Upland hunters will experience some changes when the statewide season for pheasants opens Oct. 21.
This past Saturday (Oct. 7) the season opened for junior hunters, giving them first shot at a pheasant before the regular season opens.
One change sportsmen may see are fewer birds since the Pennsylvania Game Commission stocked or will stock a total of 170,000 birds. This is down from 200,000 in recent years. The reason for this reduction, says the PGC, is funding. Because of this deficit, the agency had to close two of its four pheasant farms, but says it has increased production at the remaining farms.
In an attempt to maintain the pheasant stocking program, the PGC initiated a $26.90 pheasant hunting permit that is now required to hunt pheasants in the state.
Sportsmen will also not like to hear that the PGC had to eliminate stocking birds on most private farms in the Hunter Access Program, formerly called the Farm/Game Co-op program. In Lehigh and Berks counties only state game lands and the Blue Marsh Lake area will receive stockings. Northampton County, unfortunately, will get none according to the PGC’s interactive map that shows where birds have been and will be released. To see the stocking map sportsmen need to go online to the PGC’s website (www.pgc.pa.gov) and click on the Pheasant Allocation page where each county is shown along with green and blue dots representing lands stocked in each. Green dots represent game lands, while blue dots are non-PGC owned properties that are stocked. Click on the dots and their location pops up as will the number of pheasants stocked.
Here is the Southeast Region, there were 2,530 male pheasants stocked and 1,040 females for the junior hunt. For pre and in-season stockings, 19,820 males and 5,080 females will be released. For the late season, 770 females will be released.
According to Dustin Stoner, PGC Southeast Region public relations manager, the termination of stocking private lands is primarily because of a loss of pheasant habitat. That’s understandable seeing the expanding amount of housing and warehouses that cropped-up.
While growing up in Whitehall I remember that my uncle and grandfather both hunted pheasant in the cornfields that is now the Whitehall Mall and was across from Braden Field, the baseball stadium where Lehigh Valley Mall is situated. When old enough, I joined them hunting the Egypt-Ironton-Ormrod areas for wild pheasants. These areas have since been populated with housing and development.
The PGC says that revenue generated from the pheasant permits could help support future fall releases with numbers going back to the 200,000 count. That, and a hunting license increase would also help the cause.
According to the agency, it would cost them $4.7 million annually to maintain the 100-year old pheasant program. This was reduced to $3.7 million because of the closures and the shift to purchasing day-old chicks from a private vendor. The change eliminated the need to carry over a breeding flock and maintain hatchery operations.
Until pheasant season opens, hunters can still pursue squirrels, rabbits and grouse, their season opens Oct. 14. The latter, however, is experiencing lesser numbers that biologists say are often cyclical and dependent on food, cover and reproduction.
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.