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Monday, July 31, 2017

PA Game Commission and Pheasants Forever invite junior hunters to make history.


After several years of intensive habitat improvement to support wild pheasants, four dozen junior hunters now will have the opportunity to swing on a wild, cackling pheasant rooster as it pounds skyward this fall.

A limited-draw youth pheasant hunt will be held this year in the Central Susquehanna Wild Pheasant Recovery Area (WPRA), and the Pennsylvania Game Commission today announced the application process for the hunt.

The hunt represents the first time since the WPRA program’s startup that wild pheasants will be able to be hunted in the recovery areas.

Applications are due by the close of business on Friday, Aug. 11.

Pennsylvania’s pheasant hunting tradition started in the early 20th century with the introduction of Asian ring-necked pheasants. They acclimated rapidly in the Commonwealth’s agricultural areas, becoming one of the state’s most popular small-game species.

Wild pheasant populations continued to grow through the 1960s and peaked in the early 1970s. However, changing agricultural practices, land development, and re-forestation led to a decline of wild pheasants throughout the state and, by the end of the 20th century, it was unknown if viable wild populations still existed.

The Game Commission continued to raise and release game-farm pheasants, but hunters still longed for the glory days of hunting wild birds. The agency searched for solutions, including investigating whether a wild breeding population of pheasants could be restored.

The WPRA program was a key objective within the 2008-2017 Ring-necked Pheasant Management Plan for Pennsylvania and looked to identify four potential habitat areas of at least 10,000 acres where wild pheasants from western states could be stocked once suitable habitat was developed. The primary goal of the program was restore habitat suitable to pheasants and other farmland wildlife to support a self-sustaining and huntable ring-necked pheasant populations.

This effort was initiated by the formation of a partnership between the Game Commission, Pheasants Forever, and dedicated landowners within proposed management and release sites. Of the four Pennsylvania WPRAs, the Central Susquehanna WPRA, located in Northumberland, Montour, and Columbia counties, experienced the most significant wild pheasant population increase since the initial release of 992 wild-trapped birds from South Dakota and Montana.

“The success of these wild pheasant releases was the result of having quality habitat to support the pheasants,” said Tom Keller, wildlife biologist with the Game Commission. “We lost pheasants because we lost the habitat in the state to support them. The Central Susquehanna Wild Pheasant Recovery Area demonstrates that restoring wild pheasants is absolutely possible, but requires the appropriate habitat for success. There are no shortcuts, you must have the habitat.”

For the hunt, 48 permits will be issued to licensed junior hunters between the ages of 12 and 16. Applications are due by close of business Friday, Aug. 11. Successful applicants will be notified following an Aug. 18 random drawing.

Youth hunters will be assigned one Saturday hunt date, either the morning of Nov. 4 or Nov. 11 and each hunter will be assigned a “hunt mentor” to ensure safety and guide the permittee. The Game Commission encourages each permittee to be accompanied by an adult parent or guardian so the experience can be shared. Following the hunt, permitees and their guests are invited to attend a free luncheon provided by Pheasants Forever.

Applications, can be found at http://www.pgc.pa.gov/HuntTrap/Hunting/Pages/JrPheasantHunt.aspx, and can be filled out online and printed, or the blank application can be printed and filled in by hand. Applications must be mailed to: Pennsylvania Game Commission, Bureau of Wildlife Management, ATTN: Youth Wild Pheasant Hunt Application, 2001 Elmerton Ave., Harrisburg, PA 17110-9797.

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