Pheas­ant stock­ing pro­gram un­der­way

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - Tom Ta­tum Colum­nist

Poet T.S. Eliot fa­mously anointed April “the cru­elest month,” but the ti­tle of “busiest month” for those who scour Penn­syl­va­nia’s fields and forests in search of game goes to the month of October hands down. Archers who have been roam­ing Penn’s Woods in search of white­tail deer Since Oct. 1 can ex­pect some com­pany when black pow­der buffs get their week­long chance start­ing this Satur­day, Oct. 15, through Oct. 22, ply­ing their muz­zleloader skills on antler­less deer only. Camo-clad bowhunters are re­quired to add some flu­o­res­cent or­ange to their wardrobes dur­ing this over­lap time - a min­i­mum of 250 square inches on head, back and chest com­bined when mov­ing. The or­ange can be re­moved when the archer is on stand and sta­tion­ary, but 100 square inches of flu­o­res­cent or­ange ma­te­rial must be posted within 15 feet of their lo­ca­tion.

Small game hun­ters will also heed an Oct. 15 open­ing bell when the sea­sons on squir­rel, rab­bit, and grouse all be­gin and run through Nov. 26. For ju­nior hun­ters, those small game species (with the ex­cep­tion of grouse) are al­ready in play. The pheas­ant sea­son kicked off on Satur­day, Oct. 8, with the start of the one-week sea­son for ju­nior hun­ters, but doesn’t open up to all hun­ters statewide un­til Satur­day, Oct. 22. Daily lim­its on th­ese species are as fol­lows: Squir­rel, 6; Rab­bits, 4; Grouse, 2; Pheas­ants, 2. Bob­white quail, rac­coons and foxes may also be hunted be­gin­ning on Oct. 22. Trap­ping sea­son for foxes, coy­otes, rac­coons, opos­sums, skunks and weasels opens on Sun­day, Oct 23, and runs through Feb. 18. Then, at the end of the month, Turkey sea­son opens on Oct. 29 (but not here in Wildlife Man­age­ment Units 5C and 5D where there is no fall turkey sea­son).

For the state’s pheas­ant afi­ciona­dos, there’s a “good news/bad news”

caveat in play this year. “Against all odds, Penn­syl­va­nia’s pheas­ant hun­ters once again have plenty to be ex­cited about this year,” said Game Com­mis­sion Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor R. Matthew Hough. “It’s no se­cret the Game Com­mis­sion has been nav­i­gat­ing some rough fi­nan­cial wa­ters; 17 years with­out one ad­just­ment for in­fla­tion to our pri­mary source of rev­enue – the hunt­ing li­cense – will do that. In to­tal, about 240,000 pheas­ants – about 25,000 more than last year – are sched­uled for re­lease statewide for the 2016-17 sea­sons. The in­crease is due to sev­eral fac­tors that have come to­gether for the ben­e­fit of hun­ters.

“But the fu­ture of pheas­ant hunt­ing in Penn­syl­va­nia might not be as bright,” Hough added. In fact, with­out a li­cense-fee in­crease in the very near fu­ture, this might well be the last year the Game Com­mis­sion re­leases pheas­ants for hun­ters.”

The Penn­syl­va­nia Game Com­mis­sion has planned some changes to its pheas­ant-prop­a­ga­tion pro­gram to cut costs. In­stead of rais­ing chicks from breeder pheas­ants at the Game Com­mis­sion’s game farms, the agency in 2017

plans to be­gin pur­chas­ing day-old chicks from pri­vate prop­a­ga­tors. The move is ex­pected to save more than $200,000 an­nu­ally, but this year also con­trib­utes to an in­creased num­ber of pheas­ants re­leased, since birds that would have been kept as breed­ers in­stead can be re­leased on pub­lic-hunt­ing grounds.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the Game Com­mis­sion pur­chased about 15,000 day-old chicks this year in a test run to en­sure its pro­gram could op­er­ate smoothly if it tran­si­tions to pur­chas­ing all chicks to be raised. Those birds will be re­leased, as well. And while the agency took de­lib­er­ate ac­tion to re­duce pro­duc­tion due to the an­tic­i­pated in­creases from the re­lease of breeder birds and the chicks that were pur­chased, this year ex­pe­ri­enced the high­est hatch rate in re­cent mem­ory.

All of this adds up to more pheas­ants afield in 2016-17.

“We have been forced as an agency to make many cuts to staff and pro­grams, and moves to make the pheas­ant prop­a­ga­tion pro­gram less costly are among th­ese,” said Hough. “For­tu­nately for pheas­ant hun­ters, how­ever, those moves

will re­sult this year in more ring­necks re­leased statewide, adding even more ex­cite­ment to some of the best hunt­ing ac­tion around.”

The ad­di­tional re­leases of birds that were pur­chased as chicks or would have been main­tained as breed­ing stock should be no­tice­able, said Robert C. Boyd, who over­sees the Game Com­mis­sion’s pheas­ant prop­a­ga­tion pro­gram. “Th­ese ex­tra birds are be­ing stocked dur­ing the sec­ond, third and fourth in­sea­son re­leases, and the win­ter re­lease,” Boyd said. “So while re­leases ahead of the ju­nior sea­son and statewide opener will con­tinue to pro­vide the typ­i­cal early-sea­son ac­tion, those who keep hunt­ing through the sea­son also are bound to en­counter in­creased flushes and sus­tained op­por­tu­nity to har­vest pheas­ants,” Boyd said.

The Game Com­mis­sion stocks pheas­ants as a ser­vice to its hun­ters. The pro­gram cost $4.3 mil­lion last year, but it has its ben­e­fits. Nearly 100,000 hun­ters par­tic­i­pate in pheas­ant hunt­ing in Penn­syl­va­nia, rack­ing up nearly 400,000 hunter days and con­tribut­ing $30 mil­lion to $40 mil­lion to the state’s econ­omy.

And sur­veys have in­di­cated nearly 80 per­cent of hun­ters sup­port the pheas­ant stock­ing pro­gram.

Hun­ters also should note that pheas­ant hunt­ing is closed in all Wild Pheas­ant Re­cov­ery Ar­eas, where the Game Com­mis­sion is at­tempt­ing to re­store self­sus­tain­ing wild pheas­ant pop­u­la­tions. Maps of Wild Pheas­ant Re­cov­ery Ar­eas be­gin on Page 50 of the Hunt­ing and Trap­ping Digest. Hough said the agency re­mains com­mit­ted to its pheas­ant pro­gram, which cel­e­brated 100 years in 2015, de­spite hard times fi­nan­cially. As rev­enues con­tinue to de­cline, how­ever, it’s un­cer­tain how the pro­gram might change, “But this year, for cer­tain, pheas­ant hun­ters have a lot to look for­ward to,” Hough said.

CHESCO PHEAS­ANT STOCK­INGS

The PGC’s pheas­ant stock­ing ar­eas in Chester County con­sist of Stru­ble Lake, Dry Dam, Marsh Creek, Chester Wa­ter Au­thor­ity, French Creek, and State Game Lands #43. The PGC is set to stock just over 4,000 birds here from Oct. 7 prior to the Ju­nior Hunt through Nov. 18.

WENTZ’S WEAPONERY

In last week’s col­umn we con­grat­u­lated Philadel­phia Ea­gles’ Quar­ter­back Car­son Wentz on his bowhunt­ing prow­ess for down­ing a nice 8-point buck in North Dakota dur­ing the Ea­gle’s Bye Week. For bowhunt­ing buffs like yours truly it was dispir­it­ing to see that Wentz’s weapon of choice was in­cor­rectly iden­ti­fied as a cross­bow by a Philadel­phia Daily News sports­writer and also dur­ing the tele­vi­sion broad­cast of the Ea­gles’ pregame show on Sun­day. The bow pic­tured with Wentz and his buck is NOT a cross­bow; it’s a com­pound bow. I take um­brage at such shoddy re­port­ing since ev­ery bowhunter un­der­stands that down­ing a buck with a com­pound bow (as Wentz did) is a markedly more chal­leng­ing task than col­lect­ing one with a cross­bow. Just wanted to give our rookie QB the bowhunt­ing props he de­serves.

PHOTO COURTESY OF PENN­SYL­VA­NIA GAME COM­MIS­SION

The Penn­syl­va­nia Game Com­mis­sion’s pheas­ant stock­ing pro­gram is now un­der­way.

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