With the pheasant hunting season set to open Oct. 23, allow me to reminisce a bit.
In years past, the opening of pheasant hunting season in Pennsylvania was almost as popular as the deer opener. It was a time when upland hunters would walk the fields and woodland edges in hopes of flushing a long-tail as they’re often called. The cackle when one would flush was startling and awakened the senses.
When I was 12, my grandfather, who lived in Ironton, and my one uncle took me and my single shot, 16-gauge shotgun on my first pheasant hunt on farmland that is now the Whitehall Mall. We also hunted around my grandfather’s house and the fields around Egypt and Ormrod. That’s when there were wild pheasants to hunt. There were also wild pheasants in the fields around the West Catasauqua woods (by Walmart, Dicks, oil tank fields) near my parents’ home. In fact, one morning there was one walking around our backyard that evidently came from those same fields and woodlot.
Going back even farther, the late former outdoor writer Charlie Nehf used to write about taking a trolley from Allentown to Fogelsville with his shotgun to hunt pheasants and rabbits in the large fields there at the time. Can you imagine that happening today. SWAT would be called out to arrest him.
But those good old days are gone and never to return as development both housing and commercial ate up an appreciable amount of pheasant habitat.
Today, hunters have to rely on the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s pheasant stocking program. Unfortunately, it’s like the trout stocking program, that is essentially put and take.
And what hunters don’t take, great-horned owls, fox’s and coyotes take.
Some years ago, the PGC sponsored the Farm-Game Co-op program wherein farmers would allow hunting on their property that would be stocked with pheasants and they would be given posters to post to show their relationship with the PGC and hunters. Today, that former program is now called the “Hunter Access Program.” Unfortunately, those lands have pretty much dried up as well for hunting.
As such, the PGC now stocks primarily state game lands and state parks. In Lehigh County it’s SGL #205 in Lowhill Township. In Berks, SGL #106, 280, Blue Marsh State Park, French Creek State Park – Big Woods Tract. Unfortunately, Northampton County has no listed stocking areas.
For Lehigh, the PGC lists the pre and in-season stocking time frames with the number of pheasants in parenthesis. Pre-season stocking will be Oct. 20-22 (370); 1st in-season, 26-29 (440); 2nd in-season, Nov. 2-5 (440); 3rd in-season, Nov. 8-12 (430); 4th in-season, Nov. 17-19 (400); Xmas season, Dec. 22-23 (400); 1st late season, Dec. 28-29 (220); 2nd late season, Jan. 5-6 (180).
All totaled, the PGC will have stocked a total of 3,360 pheasants that includes an added 480 for the youth pheasant hunt held Oct. 7-8.
Back in 2017, the PGC conducted a daily survival rate between male and female pheasants and between public and private properties, and among pheasants released during different stockings during the season. Overall, 53.8 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).
The pheasant season is split in three parts beginning Oct. 23-Nov. 26; Dec. 13-24; and Dec. 27-Feb. 28. The daily limit is two birds with six in possession.
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.