More pheasants stocked in PA than last year, despite a snowstorm snafu

Brian Whipkey
Pennsylvania Outdoors Columnist

Hunters will find more pheasants during hunting season than they did last year.

That's the word from the Pennsylvania Game Commission, despite a snowstorm last month during which a significant number of pheasants escaped from their pens.

A mid-October snowstorm damaged the nets that hold in the pheasants at the Southwest Game Farm in Armstrong County just days before the season opened Oct. 22. It’s one of two facilities that raises pheasants for the agency across the state.

“We’re projecting it won’t be as many (birds) as we were originally projecting for this year, but it will be more than last year,”  Ian D. Gregg, chief of the Game Commission’s Wildlife Operations Division, said in a telephone interview about this year’s release of pheasants in public hunting areas.

The agency anticipated releasing 235,000 pheasants across the state, about 14,000 more than last year.

A ringneck pheasant stands in an enclosure Sept. 20, 2021, at the Loysalsock Game Farm operated by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

“If you crunch all the numbers, everybody statewide will get like 95% of the birds they were originally allocated,” he said.

 The scheduled stockings continue into January.

“We lost quite a number of birds, I’m not going to put an exact number on in it, partly because we don’t know for sure. We will have a better idea once we get toward the end of the shipping season,” he said.

Staff members were able to recapture a percentage of them, but some birds did escape onto neighboring properties, including places where people can legally hunt.

A flock of pheasants mill through a fielded enclosure Sept. 20, 2021, at the Loyalsock Game Farm owned by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

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“We ended up essentially with a one-day pause in shipments,” he said about taking time to make emergency repairs to the nets. The counties affected would have received pheasants that day from this farm. They are: Bedford, Blair, Clarion, Clearfield, Elk, Fulton, Greene, Huntingdon, Indiana, Jefferson, McKean and Warren.

“Recognizing that we did lose enough birds that it was going to make an impact, we did have a few adjustments. We did move birds from the Loyalsock Farm in Lycoming County down to the Southwest Farm to fill back in what we lost. We also made some adjustments to the allocations for each county,” he explained.

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“So basically, all the places that missed that one day of shipments in October, they got an extra bump in their next shipment, and they’re getting a smaller extra bump in their shipments for the rest of the season," he said.

Over the years, the numbers of the birds do fluctuate for different reasons, Gregg said.

“It’s not unusual to have some changes in numbers as the course of the season goes along. Either you have a few more or a few less birds than you thought. Actually, last year, we had about the number we thought, but there was a higher percentage of males and a lower percentage of females than we thought," he said.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission has raised 235,000 pheasants to release this fall. Michael Booher, superintendent of the Southwest Game Farm, left, and Ian Gregg, Wildlife Operations Division chief, stand with two ringnecks Sept. 14, 2022, at one of the fielded pens.

To increase awareness of where and when pheasants will be stocked, the agency publishes an allocation table and interactive stocking locations map at www.pgc.pa.gov. To find it: look under "hunt & trap," then "hunting," then to to "small game" and "ring-necked pheasant" then "stockings." A table displays the number of pheasants to be released in each Game Commission region.

 Pheasant season continues through Nov. 25, and reopens Dec. 12-23 and Dec. 26-Feb. 27.

In addition to a general hunting license, adults pay $26.97 for a pheasant permit. The permit is free to junior license holders ages 12-17.

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Brian Whipkey is the outdoors columnist for USA TODAY Network sites in Pennsylvania. Contact him atbwhipkey@gannett.com and sign up for our weekly Go Outdoors PA newsletter email on your website's homepage under your login name. Follow him on Facebook@whipkeyoutdoors.