WEATHER AND CONDITIONS
Pennsylvania saw one of the wettest years it’s had in quite some time with a fairly mild winter, rain fell when there should have been snow, and continued right into spring,” reports Tom Keller, Game Bird Section wildlife biologist for the Pennsylvania Game Commission. “We feared the worst regarding nest failures and chick mortality due to wetter spring conditions, but according to the 2018 population estimates, our staff noted similar numbers to last year within the state’s most prominent Wild Pheasant Recovery Area.
HATCH AND BROODS
Although Pennsylvania does not conduct summer brood surveys, landowners within state pheasant recovery areas have been witnessing broods on their respective farms. “Several have mentioned seeing broods recently with chicks relatively small for this late in the year,” added Keller. “This could point to some failed nests early, potentially from large rain events, but thankfully hen pheasants are tenacious re-nesters.”
HABITAT AND PROGRAMS
Overall, and in thanks to the consistent rain, beautiful habitat both in the warm season grass fields and surrounding agricultural areas have been developed over the summer months. “I had common milkweed growing 7 feet tall on my own farm,” commented Keller.
“Putting habitat on the ground and keeping it there for extended periods has always been a challenge with the Wild Pheasant Recovery Area due to its prominence as a private lands program. Be that as it may, Pheasants Forever’s Farm Bill Biologist Partnership has worked tirelessly to ensure Pennsylvania pheasants always have a place to live. Without this partnership or forward thinking, dedicated landowners, programs like this wouldn’t be possible,” he added.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission works hand-in-hand with Pheasants Forever and private landowners to provide as much grassland habitat for wildlife as possible. With such a large portion of the state privately owned, and most of that where grassland habitat can exist, PF’s Farm Bill biologists are promoting programs like the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) and Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP). For upland hunters looking to head to Pennsylvania this year, whether for pheasant or a host of other game bird species, check out the Hunter Access Program
. Besides the 4 million+ acres of public lands that are huntable in the state, this program provides access to hunters on private lands and helps landowners manage their property for wildlife.
"The 2018 season marks the second annual Central Susquehanna Wild Pheasant Youth Hunt and we’re excited to bring a new group of youth into the best pheasant habitat in the state to pursue wild (and wily) roosters,” stated Keller. “Last year’s hunt was fantastic with a lot of shooting and several long-tailed roosters slid into game pouches.” Spring crow counts indicate a similar number of birds to last year within specific recovery areas – remember that WPRA’s have only been opened for select youth hunting opportunities designated by the Game Commission.
For additional pheasant hunting prospects, uplanders are encouraged to explore the Commission’s 1.5 million acres of State Game Lands providing opportunities for both wild and introduced ringnecks. “This provides an excellent opportunity to introduce a whole new generation to Pennsylvania’s long-standing upland traditions,” said Keller. “We encourage folks to acquire a pheasant permit and check out our new interactive map
for hunting opportunities throughout the state.”
Keller reported that the recovery of wild pheasants in Pennsylvania has been a challenge at times. But, with strong partnerships between wildlife agencies, NGOs, and private landowners, the Commission has made great strides in restoring habitat for this popular species.
The Commission and its partners will continue working hard to put diverse habitat on the ground not just for upland birds, but for all wildlife. “If you’re a private landowner and have ever considered doing something for wildlife on your property, let me encourage you to take that first step forward. Most wildlife agencies have a private lands section and would be happy to help you determine how to get started and how you can get help paying for it. For those living in Pennsylvania, please check out the Commission’s Private Landowner Assistance Program
for habitat conservation assistance.”
Keller offered some final words of wisdom: “If you don’t own land, don’t worry, supporting organizations like Pheasants Forever is directly putting habitat on the ground today. Straight shooting this season!”