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Outdoors notebook: Pheasants will abound this fall

Bob Frye
| Sunday, July 3, 2016, 9:24 p.m.

If Pennsylvania pheasant hunters can't find any birds in the field this fall, it won't be because they aren't out there.

The number stocked is expected to top anything in recent memory.

Wayne Laroche, director of the Pennsylvania Game Commission's bureau of wildlife management, said the agency is exploring ways to cut costs within the pheasant program. Right now, he said, the agency spends about $4-5 million to raise and release birds.

Savings might come from buying day-old chicks and raising them, rather than keeping game farms operational year-round so as to produce them in-house, he said. With that in mind, the commission launched an experiment this year. Laroche said it bought 15,500 day-old chicks from a commercial breeder and is raising them at the game farm in Armstrong County.

That represents a “test run to see how they survive relative to our own chicks,” he said.

If that effort proves successful, he said earlier this year, the commission might go to buying all of its chicks. That would allow the game farms to close, or at least scale back operations, at slow times. Those workers would be used elsewhere, he said.

In the meantime, commission game farms produced a “bumper crop” of pheasants this spring, Laroche said.

He said those 220,000 or so birds, together with the 15,500 purchased, will lead to more than 235,000 being stocked this fall “if all goes according to plan.”

License auction

Pennsylvania's “elk conservation tag” — a license good for a bull elk that can be hunted throughout the month of September, during the rut — sold for $85,000 at auction.

That's by far a state record.

The previous high paid for the conservation tag was $52,500 in 2015.

“The fact people are willing to pay that kind of money to come to Pennsylvania and hunt elk speaks for itself. Which is a good thing, because that $85,000 total leaves me completely speechless,” Game Commission executive director Matt Hough said.

The money raised by the auction will stay in Pennsylvania and go to habitat projects to benefit elk and other wildlife, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation regional director Dave Ragantesi said.

Museum to open

Sportsmen who find themselves in Springfield, Mo., soon can check out the new 315,000-square-foot Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium.

Located next to Bass Pro Shops' flagship store, it came about through the collaboration of more than 25 conservation organizations. Its goal is to increase “public appreciation for wildlife and conservation efforts.”

It will also be home to the Boone and Crockett Club's “national collection of heads and horns.” It features more than 40 historically significant North American game animals.

Details are available at wondersofwildlife.org.

Gypsy moths

The Pennsylvania Game Commission and Department of Conservation and Natural Resources sprayed their woodlands to combat gypsy moths.

None of that went on locally, however.

Problems with the pest appear to be concentrated in central and eastern Pennsylvania, and that's where the spraying took place. The commission sprayed more than 32,000 acres, the most since 2008, and the department sprayed 136,000 acres.

Grant awarded

Pennsylvania's Wildlife for Everyone Endowment Foundation received a $57,000 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The money will go toward restoration projects to increase stream bank stability, reduce erosion, improve floodplain connectivity and increase in-stream habitat on two Game Commission properties in central Pennsylvania.

Bob Frye is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at bfrye@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

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