PENNSYLVANIA—MOST WILD BIRDS OFF LIMITS FOR NOW
Forecast: Pennsylvania’s few wild pheasants live mostly in the state’s four active Wild Pheasant Recovery Areas, where hunting is closed—at least for now. There’s a small chance of finding wild pheasants in agricultural areas elsewhere. But most pheasant hunting this year will be for stocked, pen-raised birds, says Ian Gregg, game management division chief for the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
It wasn’t always so. Breeding Bird Survey data from routes run in primary pheasant range counties in southeastern Pennsylvania show that pheasant numbers increased an average 3 percent per year from 1966 to 1974. The population held steady through 1980. But then it plunged. The roadside index fell from 32 birds per route in 1966 to less than a single bird in 2005.
According to the Northeast Upland Game Bird Technical Committee report for 2015, “Loss of farmland habitat and intensification of agricultural practices on remaining cropland acres are the primary causes for these declines. In addition, the release of large numbers of game farm pheasants is thought to have greatly reduced the gene pool and survivorship of pheasants in the wild.”
The Pennsylvania Ring-necked Pheasant Management Plan 2008–2017, completed in 2009, laid out a two-pronged approach to pheasant recovery. First is restoring wild birds in designated recovery areas. Second is providing put-and-take hunting.
Season Dates: October 24, 2015 through November 28, 2015; December 14, 2015 through December 24, 2015; December 26, 2015 through February 29, 2016
Youth Season Dates: October 10, 2015 through October 17, 2015
Daily Bag Limit: 2; whether rooster only varies by region, see season link below
Possession Limit: 6; whether rooster only varies by region, see season link below
Field Notes: The four active wild pheasant recovery areas, ranging from 15,000 to 126,000 acres, are located in Somerset County; Franklin County; Montour, Northumberland and Columbia counties; and Dauphin and Schuylkill counties.