Pennsylvania to Stock More Birds in Response to Pheasant Hunting Demand

by Megan Molseed

When the state of Pennsylvania instituted a $26.90 charge to its pheasant hunting permits five years ago, the state knew that the proceeds from the increased charges would go towards benefiting the state’s upland hunting programs. And now, the Keystone State is taking strides in making efforts in this area, using the hunting permit proceeds to up pheasant stocks this year.

This move is in response to increased demand for pheasant hunting opportunities throughout the state, adding to the number of opportunities the game hunters have during a season. The increase will bring the number of pheasants up to 220,000 throughout the state.

Breathing New Life Into Pennsylvania Pheasant Hunting Programs

When the permit increase was introduced, Pennsylvania pheasant hunters didn’t seem to mind the increased charges. And, they were willing to pay for the opportunity to the feathered game across the state. During the 2020-2021 hunting season the state of Pennsylvania sold nearly 50,000 permits. Additionally, as many as 13,260 free pheasant hunting permits to the youth upland hunters.

Pheasants raised within Pennsylvania’s two pheasant farms are released from as many 230 sites throughout 62 of the state’s 67 counties. This increase in the released game is part of a large effort to continue bringing new interest to the Keystone state’s long-held tradition in pheasant hunting.

A Time-Honored Tradition Sees Many Changes Over the Years

For many years Pennsylvania ranked as one of the nation’s top states for pheasant hunting. As many as 700,000 hunters took part in the time-honored tradition; with as many as 1.3 million wild pheasants hunted.

Of course, as has happened with most ecological systems – and programs – over the years, changing environments, pheasant habitat loss, and hard winters led to a marked decrease in the pheasant population by the late 1970s. The Pennsylvania Game Commission responded by developing a pheasant stocking program. This program hit its peak in the mid-1980s with 425,217 birds.

However, cuts were implemented over time as dwindling hunter interest made the program too expensive to continue. The new pheasant hunting fee helps the state of Pennsylvania bring back the heyday of pheasant hunting. The Game Commission spends about $15 to raise and release each pheasant.

Would Increasing Pheasant Releases Lead to More Wild Birds?

The updated pheasant release program has already attracted more hunters with renewed interest in the Pennsylvania hunting tradition. Part of the program’s goal is to reestablish the wild pheasant population throughout the state over time.

The goal is to grow the pheasant population’s density to include an average of 10 hens per square mile. This, the Pennsylvania Gaming Commission notes, will signify a large enough population of huntable wild birds. However, a wild pheasant comeback in the state is years away. But, the increased funding and updated release programs are certainly going a long way towards this effort.