In 1929, the Game Commission began the propagation of pheasants on an extensive scale with the establishment of two game farms. Over the next six decades, to off‑set the increasing demand for pheasants from hunters, three other farms were placed into operation, and the day‑old pheasant chick program was implemented and made available to sportsmen’s organizations, 4‑H clubs, farmers, and other cooperators for rearing and releasing on areas open to public hunting.
In 1959, the number of pheasant chicks distributed to cooperators reached 229,685, an all-time high, in addition to the more than 88,500 pheasants raised and released by the agency. Unfortunately, cooperator participation has dwindled significantly over the last few decades. In recent years, only a dozen or so clubs have participated; raising and releasing 4,000-5,000 birds.
Because of budgetary constraints, the Game Commission was forced, in 2005, to reduce its annual pheasant stocking allocation from 200,000 to 100,000. However, as part of the agency’s pheasant management plan and the recent realization of increased revenues from Marcellus shale natural gas development on State Game Lands, the agency increased that stocking effort to 200,000 birds for the 2012-13 seasons.
“The agency also offers enrolled organizations technical assistance and advice at the club’s facility, and a training session and overview of agency game farm operations can be scheduled during the off‑season from January through March to assist in development of the club’s program,” DuBrock said.
To be eligible to receive pheasant chicks, a sportsmen’s club is required to have a minimum of 25 square feet of covered pen space available per bird. In addition, 72 square inches of floor space per chick is recommended in the brooder building. All feed and expenses incurred in the work of constructing covered pens and raising pheasants will be the responsibility of the club. All pheasants propagated by organizations must be released on lands open to public hunting.
Pheasant chicks can be raised at the cooperator’s facility or by a designated caretaker with the proper facilities.
“We recommend releasing some hen pheasants in early September in areas where habitat is sufficient to provide food and cover,” DuBrock said. “These birds can provide good dog training opportunities and releasing hens early also provides additional room in the pen to finish growing out the males for the hunting season. Maximum recreational opportunities can be attained by releasing male pheasants as close to the opening of small game season as possible.”
Game Commission pheasant hatches come off once a week during the month of May, and the chicks for clubs will be scheduled into those hatches. Game farm superintendents will send notification to approved organizations when chicks will be ready for pick‑up.
The Game Commission requires a complete report of the production and release results. Renewal applications will not be processed unless a complete report has been filed for the prior year.
In the early 1900s, the Game Commission set aside a special appropriation of funds to purchase and propagate game. Pheasant eggs were purchased and given to agency refuge keepers, sportsmen’s organizations and private individuals interested in raising pheasants. The first stocking of pheasants by the Game Commission occurred by 1915.
SOURCE Pennsylvania Game Commission