Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Pheasant management poised for some change

Albany – DEC’s updated 10-year pheasant plan would extend
pheasant hunting seasons in many areas, reduce the cockbird-only
area and eliminate the Young Pheasant Release Program after

Those recommendations, contained in a draft report available on
DEC’s Web site (, are now subject
to public comment through Nov. 13.

The update of DEC’s 10-year pheasant management plan comes
several months after the fate of the state’s last remaining
pheasant-rearing facility – the Reynolds Farm in Ithaca – was
jeopardized but ultimately spared during the state’s fiscal crisis.
Plans to close the facility as a cost-saving measure were scrapped
amid widespread opposition from the sporting community.

“Pheasants remain a very popular game bird in New York,”_DEC
Director of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources Patricia Riexinger
said in a letter to stakeholders seeking public comment on the
plan. “More than 50,000 people from across the state go afield to
hunt pheasants annually, and our longstanding pheasant propagation
program fosters strong support from organized sportsmen and

But changes in land use and habitat across much of the state now
mean DEC’s pheasant-rearing program does little to boost wild
pheasant populations, since natural reproduction rarely occurs.

As a result, DEC’s pheasant-rearing efforts in many areas offer
hunters their only opportunity to hunt the birds.

DEC is looking to maximize the return on its pheasant-rearing
efforts, and one way would be to extend pheasant-hunting seasons to
ensure that more of the stocked birds are harvested by hunters.

That’s one recommendation contained within the 10-year plan.

“Very few released birds survive to breed the following year,”
the report said. “Extending seasons provides more days afield for
hunters and allows for a higher harvest of released birds.”

Other recommendations within the plan include:

€ a longer season in the cockbird-only hunting area of western
New York. DEC officials said in the report that shouldn’t impact
wild pheasant numbers in the area, since hens would still be
protected “and the season closes before mid-winter when hunting
disturbance could affect survival of wild pheasants.”

€ reducing the cockbird-only region by eliminating WMUs 7F, 7J,
8N, 8R and 9H and making both hens and ringnecks available for
harvest in those units. That move would be implemented because of a
shrinking range where natural pheasant reproduction is

€ eliminating the distribution of about 600 pheasants provided
annually for the national field trial, a retriever competition held
annually in central New York. “Although these birds are not shot
during the trial, many are killed by predators and others are
flushed off the area,” the report said. “The 600 birds might be
better utilized during the regular pheasant-hunting season or
during special hunts for youth, people with disabilities, novices
and women.”

€ eliminating the Young Pheasant Release Program in 2011 and
increasing adult pheasant production by 5,000 birds annually. DEC’s
banding study showed fewer than 10 percent of the 15,000 young
pheasants were harvested by hunters after their release, compared
to 50-60 percent of adult pheasants released.

€ identifying a “focus area” in the Lake Plains of western New
York where most pheasant resources would be directed to “provide
the greatest potential to sustain a wild population.”

€ establishing one or more hunting areas for people with

€ requiring the release of Day-Old Pheasant Chick Program birds
by Dec. 1.

€ releasing at least 10 percent of the game farm’s adult
pheasants for the youth pheasant hunt weekends.

Comments on the draft pheasant management plan can be made by
e-mail to
(with “Pheasant Plan” in the subject line) or by regular mail
to:_Michael J. Murphy, 81 Game Farm Road, Ithaca, NY 14850.

Those not able to view a copy of the plan via the Internet can
request a copy by calling (607) 273-2768.

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