Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Pheasant-rearing fate still unknown

Ithaca, N.Y. – Although there’s no concrete plan to close the
state’s last remaining pheasant-rearing facility, DEC has looked at
purchasing pheasants from private growers if that does happen.

The fate of the Richard E. Reynolds Game Farm remains cloudy as
DEC – as well as all state agencies – look for ways to cut costs
amid the state’s budget crisis.

But DEC Assistant Director of Fish, Wildlife and Marine
Resources Doug Stang admits that closing the pheasant farm is “a
possibility.”

And DEC_Commissioner Pete Grannis, in a discussion with sporting
group representatives earlier this year, said closing the Reynolds
farm and buying birds from private facilities is an option being
considered.

“We are in daily discussions with the Division of Budget on ways
to cut costs and reduce expenditures across the board,” Stang said
last month.

Sportsmen and women across the state are concerned that the
pheasant-rearing facility, which has in the past been eyed for
possible closure, may not survive this round of talks, given the
gravity of the state’s fiscal woes.

If the Reynolds farm is shut down, it essentially means the end
of pheasant hunting in New York, since only a few areas of the
state (Long Island and portions of the Finger Lakes region and
western New York) have natural reproduction of pheasants.

The only way to maintain a statewide pheasant-hunting
opportunity would be for the state to purchase birds from private
game farms for stocking.

That, Stang says, is something that’s being at least looked at
in the event the Reynolds farm is shut down. DEC officials have
been weighing costs of the department’s own pheasant propagation
program versus purchasing birds from other sources.

“We have looked into the purchase of pheasants from private
growers, and the few unofficial quotes we received indicate that
the cost per adult bird delivered to a single location in central
New York would be approximately $12,” Stang said. “There would be
additional costs to distribute the birds to various locations
around the state.”

A private pheasant purchase plan, however, is not without its
drawbacks.

“We produce high-quality pheasants at the Reynolds Game Farm,
and we’re uncertain if we could purchase the same high-quality
birds in such a quantity from commercial operation(s).”

Too, DEC would be subject under state regulations to put the
contract out to bid and accept the lowest responsible bid for the
sale of pheasants to the state.

Currently, the Reynolds facility produces about 27,000 adult
pheasants for stocking primarily on over 100 DEC-managed public
hunting grounds. The game farm also raises another 15,000 7- to
10-week old birds which are distributed to cooperators in the Young
Pheasant Release Program. Those birds are then raised and released
on approved sites.

Another 60,000 day-old chicks are hatched and distributed to
cooperators in DEC’s Day-Old Chick Program, in which clubs and
individuals – including many youth – then raise birds to adulthood.
All birds must be released on lands open to hunting.

DEC estimates it costs the state $18 per adult bird, $11 for
birds reared for the Youth Pheasant Release Program, and $1.75 for
each day-old chick.

Stang called those figures “comparable to the costs for the
Pennsylvania Game Commission to rear and stock pheasants on a
per-bird basis.”

Pheasant hunting remains popular in New York among small-game
hunters, particularly those with hunting dogs. DEC’s Small-Game
Hunter Survey of 2006-07 estimated that about 60,000 pheasant
hunters harvested 130,000 pheasants statewide, spending a total of
approximately 262,000 days afield.

The Reynolds Game Farm has been in operation since 1927, and all
pheasant production was shifted there in 1999 when the John White
Game Farm was closed to save money and increase efficiency, DEC
officials said.

The annual budget for the Reynolds facility is about $800,000,
which includes propagation, administration, maintenance and some
distribution costs. The facility currently has four full-time
employees and employs up to 10 additional temporary staff during
the peak of pheasant-rearing activities from March through
November.

Stang says the fate of the Reynolds facility is truly up in the
air this time around.

“I_hope it doesn’t come to that (closing), but I don’t know at
this time,” he said.

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