For a lot of hunters my age, pheasants were what originally got us hooked on the sport. Those of us who started hunting back in the ’60s, the heyday of wild pheasant hunting in Pennsylvania, can remember going out on the first day of what we called small game season, coming to the end of a field and seeing multiple wild pheasants erupt into the air.
Getting a two-bird limit usually didn’t take very long even with limited wingshooting skills. Many of us would go out on Thanksgiving morning, which was very near the end of the season, and kill a limit before noon. All this was before I owned my first bird dog. It was heady stuff for a young hunter!
Fast forward to today and about the only pheasants you’re likely to encounter in the Keystone state are pen-raised birds stocked by the PGC — with one notable exception!
Back in 2007 some local Pheasants Forever members, with the cooperation of the Pennsylvania Game Commission, live-trapped wild pheasants in Montana and South Dakota and re-stocked them in the Turbotville/Washingtonville area. This is an area which had nearly as much set-aside land as had been the case during the soil bank days of the ’60s. If a wild pheasant population could be established and maintained anywhere in the state, this was the place!
Just a couple weeks ago a flushing count was done on a 50-acre field near Turbotville and over 170 wild pheasants were put into the air! No birds had been stocked on this property since 2008 so these had to be birds that had been born and raised there! That is enough to make any wild pheasant lover’s heart go pitter-patter!
The area in question is part of the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Wild Pheasant Recovery program and I don’t think I’d be too far off the mark to say that this is the most successful area in the program. The key, of course, is habitat.