The Pennsylvania Game Commission is promising more birds, more roosters and more opportunity for pheasant hunters this season.
The statewide pheasant season opens Saturday, and the Game Commission vows that it will be a memorable one.
The Commission reports that revenue generated by Pennsylvania’s pheasant-hunting permit has been pumped back into the Commission’s pheasant propagation program. According to the Commission, hunters this season are expected to see noticeable increases in the number of birds afield — particularly later in the season — and the proportion of roosters among them.
Important changes: Pheasant hunters, however, should familiarize themselves with some important changes that have occurred since last year.
Junior hunters, who last season weren’t required to obtain pheasant permits, will need them this year, but the permits are free to junior hunters.
In addition, hunters who held their senior lifetime licenses before May 13, 2017 — when the requirement for a pheasant permit became a regulation — have been exempted from needing pheasant permits, and can hunt pheasants without them.
Otherwise, all adult and senior hunters need pheasant permits, which continue to cost $26.90 and are required in addition to a general license. The permit and license both must be signed and carried afield while hunting pheasants.
Permit revenue used to increase pheasant allocation: In the pheasant permit’s inaugural year in 2017-18, the Commission reported that sales topped $1.1 million. That revenue has been used this year to increase the statewide allocation to 220,000 pheasants — a more than 30 percent increase compared to the 170,000 birds targeted for release in 2017-18.
About 75 percent of the pheasants released will be roosters. In 2017-18, 52 percent of the pheasants released were males.
Even though hunters statewide might find more roosters among the pheasants they flush, more hunters than ever will also be able to harvest hens in the coming season. The prohibition on hen pheasant hunting has been lifted in Wildlife Management Units 2A, 2C, 4C and 5B. Only in WMUs 4E and 5A are hunters limited to harvesting roosters.
Best hunting may come later: While significantly more pheasants will be released in 2018-19, the increase will be most noticeable beginning with the second in-season stocking, said Bob Boyd, who heads the Commission’s wildlife services division.
The pheasant release preceding the junior pheasant season, as well as the release before the statewide opener and the first in-season release, both contain similar numbers of birds as last year.
The second, third and fourth in-season stockings, as well as the winter release, all will see more pheasants, and hunters could enjoy some of their best opportunities following those later releases, Boyd said.
With four more WMUs now home to either-sex pheasant hunting, and roosters comprising 75 percent of all pheasants released, most of the birds stocked during the winter release will be males, Boyd said. In previous years, the winter release in either-sex WMUs was comprised almost entirely of hens.
The 2018-19 winter release of an expected 24,000 birds figures to triple that of 2017-18, and it will be conducted over two days instead of one.
Hens, roosters both tough targets: For hunters new to pursuing hen pheasants, Boyd said there’s not much difference, other than the absence of a tell-tale rooster cackle when the bird flushes.
“But they’re just as tough a target to hit and they taste just as good on the table,” Boyd said.
With more pheasants, more roosters and more late-season opportunity for pheasant hunters to take birds, hunters are likely to find this season ranks among their best, Boyd said.
“And for those who take part, it surely will be a memorable one,” he said.
Information for this story was provided by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.