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Pheasant hunting inequities outlined

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Harvest survey

How many of the 200,000-plus pheasants stocked by the Pennsylvania Game Commission actually are taken by hunters?

The agency intends to find out.

It plans to conduct a harvest rate study in 2015. The commission will put leg bands on 6,080 birds, including roosters and hens, that will be distributed proportionately across the state. Hunters who bag a banded bird will be asked to report where and when they got it via a toll-free phone number.

Some of the bands — 1,950 all told — will offer rewards ranging from $5 to $150.

The commission has done this once before.

Its goal is to see 60 percent of stocked birds harvested by hunters. A 1998 survey determined they were taking just 50 percent, though. Natural mortality and predation were taking the rest.

The commission instituted some changes as a result, said Bob Boyd, who heads its propagation program. It eliminated September hen releases, quit stocking hens in cock-only zones, moved most stockings to public land and started spreading stockings over more weeks.

Next year's study should tell if those changes made any difference, Boyd said.

— Bob Frye

Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, 10:33 p.m.

All pheasant hunting opportunities aren't created equal.

Hunters, if given the choice, prefer to shoot pheasant roosters to hens, said Bob Boyd, the Pennsylvania Game Commission's wildlife services division chief and the man in charge of its pheasant propagation program.

“That's a no brainer,” he said.

Yet, their chances to do that are better in some places than others.

The commission has a goal of raising 200,000 pheasants for stocking each year. This year, it's going to have about 220,000 to release, Boyd said.

Those birds are born at a male-to-female ratio of one-to-one. But, Boyd said, when it comes time to release them, they aren't distributed equally.

Currently, in six wildlife management units, hunters can shoot only cockbirds. Consequently, 100 percent of those stocked are roosters.

In the state's other 17 units, where either-sex hunting is legal — representing 73 percent of Pennsylvania's land mass and 65 percent of hunters — only 35 percent of the birds stocked are roosters.

That requires moving birds around, adds expense to the stocking program, causes additional mortality and is perceived by some as being unfair, Boyd said. The commission could avoid all that by changing the rules to allow for statewide either-sex hunting, which would give hunters a 60-40 mix of roosters to hens in all units, he added.

“Maybe it's time we think a little more seriously about this either-sex option, with the exception of the wild pheasant recovery areas,” Boyd said.

Hunters are somewhat split on the idea.

According to a recent commission survey, 58 percent of pheasant hunters overall support the idea of either-sex pheasant hunting in areas without wild birds.

There's more support for that in areas that already have either-sex hunting than in areas without it, though. Sixty-two percent of hunters support it in the former, compared to 48 percent in the latter.

Count commissioner Jay Delaney among those opposed to the idea.

He said the board debated the idea of going to statewide either-sex hunting “extensively” last year. It rejected it, to protect any wild birds on the landscape, he noted. He hasn't changed his mind.

“I personally wouldn't support that,” Delaney said.

Boyd said that, if staff were to propose a change, it might be during the agency's January meeting, when preliminary seasons and bag limits for 2015-16 will be outlined.

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

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