There are ongoing efforts by the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the non-profit organization Pheasants Forever to try to restore wild pheasant populations again in our state.
Two efforts are ongoing. The State of Pennsylvania was able to secure to secure United States Department of Agriculture funding for the Pennsylvania Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program. Under this program, landowners can enroll their cropland and buffers next to streams in conservation cover for 10-15 years.
The rental rates are much higher than the regular federal Crop Reserve Program (CRP). The goal is to enroll 265,000 acres. That goal is on target with 170,000 currently enrolled.
The plan estimates that nearly 2 million acres has the potential to support wild pheasants across the state; but that significant habitat improvements are very much needed. A segment of the plan calls for establishing Wild Pheasant Recovery Areas. The goal of a recovery area is to establish a sustainable wild pheasant population that can be hunted.
Currently there are four recovery areas; Somerset in Somerset County; Central Susquehanna Montour in Northumberland and Columbia Counties, Hegins-Gratz in Dauphin and Schuylkill Counties, and Franklin in Franklin County.
In the recovery areas, wild trapped pheasants from the Northern Plains and Midwest states are released in hopes of sustaining wild populations. So far overall success has been variable.
Linda & I visited the Wild Pheasant Recovery Area at the Montour Preserve in Washingtonville some years ago. The area is well marked and birds could be heard and seen. The varied cover looked quite promising.
None of us expect pheasant hunting to be like it was in the l960’s and 70’s. There are just too many adverse things to overcome. Predators and avian flu are highest on my list. Then there are pesticides and other factors. Still, I applaud the efforts of the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the dedicated volunteers of Pheasants forever. It is a never ending special thrill to see and hear a male pheasant busting out of cover and experience their cackling call.
Jim Collins is an outdoor writer for this newspaper. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org; or write to him at Outdoors With Jim Collins, 87 Windfall Road, Alba, PA 16910.