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Commissioners will debate changes to pheasant hunting

| Tuesday, April 9, 2013, 5:42 p.m.

Hope you wrote your plans for the upcoming hunting seasons in pencil.

Changes may be on the way.

When Pennsylvania Game Commissioners meet Sunday and Monday in Harrisburg, they'll debate tweaks to pheasant hunting.

When it comes to ringnecks, commissioners seem agreed on the idea of extending hunting through Feb. 22 in wildlife management units where cockbirds and hens are legal.

This past winter, the latest season closed Feb. 2.

The extension would allow hunters chasing rabbits who happen to flush a pheasant to take it, said commissioner Jay Delaney of Luzerne County.

“A beagle puts a bird in the air, I would rather see that in his bag …” Delaney said.

“... Than in a fox's belly,” commissioners executive director Carl Roe added.

Cal DuBrock, director of the commission's bureau of wildlife management, said he'd be OK with such a change. Stocked birds are expensive to raise and are meant for sportsmen, so extending hunting opportunities “doesn't cause me any concern.”

There was less agreement on whether to likewise extend hunting through February in units where only cockbirds are legal. In those units, the latest pheasant hunt ends the Saturday before deer season opens. That's traditionally been to keep any holdover birds free from pressure in case they might breed, DuBrock said.

With that in mind, some commissioners want to add them to the late season.

There's not 100-percent agreement on that.

Delaney said he'd be OK with extending hunting in cockbird-only areas but only so long as those units do not also hold a wild pheasant recovery area. He doesn't want to jeopardize any wild birds, he said.

That would essentially add a wildlife management unit, 5B, to the late season.

Dave Schreffler of Bedford County said the wild pheasant recovery areas already have their own boundaries. Prohibiting hunting outside of them isn't fair, he said.

Commissioner Ralph Martone of New Castle agreed and said adding just one cockbird-only area to the late season will make things confusing for hunters.

Dave Putnam, commissioner from Centre County, said the board will debate whether to open the late season in all units when it meets next week.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bfrye@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

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