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HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 23 /PRNewswire/ -- The Pennsylvania Game Commission has slated 200,000 ring-necked pheasants for release throughout the Commonwealth for the upcoming small game hunting seasons. In addition, 20,000 birds will be released for the third annual Youth Pheasant Hunt, which is scheduled for Oct. 9 and 11.
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"Our game farm pheasant production this year went extremely good despite rainy conditions throughout the growing season," said Carl F. Riegner, chief of the agency's Propagation Division. "Our people did such a great job producing birds that we would have easily exceeded the production quota of 200,000 birds by about five percent again this season. But that was not to be, thanks to the remnants of Hurricane Ivan."

The Northcentral and Loyalsock game farms, both in Northcentral Pennsylvania and in the path of Ivan, sustained wind and water damage. Heavy rains pounded the area pushing streams and rivers well over flood stage. The Loyalsock Creek went over its banks flooding numerous pheasant pens. Other pens sustained damage when feed became water soaked simply from run-off water ponding in low-lying areas. Many birds survived by flying up on roosting structures provided to simulate roosting in trees, and on corn stalks planted in the fields.

Due to damage sustained at the Northcentral Game Farm, the public tour planned at this game farm for Sunday, Sept. 26, has been cancelled. However, tours at the other three farms, including the nearby Loyalsock Game Farm will continue as planned. (For more information on the public tours of the game farms, please refer to News Release #66-04, which was issued on Aug. 12.)

"A field sustained damage when a tree toppled over on a pen," Riegner said. "The fallen tree collapsed part of the fence and some of the birds escaped.

"Although some residents say this is reminiscent of the 1996 flood, we were spared the worst with no structural damage other than erosion to the levee system at Loyalsock Game Farm. Even though there was some mortality among the flocks, we will still be able to stock 200,000 pheasants for hunters."

The stocking season begins Oct. 8, when the agency will release more than 20,000 birds for the youth pheasant hunt scheduled for Oct 9 and 11. Game Commission personnel will stock 18,000 birds on 114 sites in 56 of the 65 counties where pheasants are stocked, and an additional 2,000 pheasants will be divided and shipped to more than 30 sportsmen's clubs that have signed up to host a mentored youth pheasant hunt. Last year, 23 clubs hosted such hunts.

"There has been an increased interest with sportsmen's organizations to host mentored youth pheasant hunts this year," said Lori Richardson, Game Commission Outreach Coordinator and Youth Pheasant Hunt Committee chair. "The youth pheasant hunt is turning out to be very valuable as it inspires new hunters and is helping to retain small game hunters and bird-dog handlers alike."

Opening day of the general pheasant hunting season is Oct. 23, and closes on Nov. 27. Pheasants will be stocked for four consecutive weeks in each region starting the week of Oct. 18, prior to the opening day. Preseason releases will consist of 30 percent of the fall allocation, the first two in- season releases will be 25 percent, and the third in-season release will consist of 20 percent of the fall allocation.

"The best opportunities to bag pheasants still exist on State Game Lands where habitat is managed for pheasants," Riegner said. "Although wild pheasant populations remain very low, excellent hunting opportunities can be enjoyed with the quality pheasants the Commission is releasing.

"We plan to conduct one pre-season opening stocking, followed by three consecutive in-season stockings. We are planning to do most of the pheasant stockings closer to the weekend to maximize hunting opportunities."

Riegner noted that the Board of Game Commissioners also adopted a regulatory change in January aimed at improving safety for agency employees and vehicles involved in pheasant stocking.

"Each year, when land management personnel are releasing pheasants from the stocking trucks, employees and trucks are shot at by unsuspecting hunters in the field," Riegner said. "To prevent this, a new regulation prohibits hunters from discharging a firearm within 150 yards of a Game Commission vehicle releasing pheasants. We ask that all hunters abide by this new regulation, which only makes sense."

During the regular fall season, pheasants will be stocked on State Game Lands, certain properties enrolled in the agency's Cooperative Farm-Game and Safety Zone public access programs, and select state parks and federal lands. Game Commission regional offices have an updated publication titled A Guide To Pheasant Releases And More, which identifies State Game Lands, and those state parks and federal lands with suitable habitat that receive pheasant stockings. The publication also is posted on the Game Commission's website (http://www.pgc.state.pa.us), and can be viewed by clicking on "Hunting & Trapping," then choosing "PGC's Pheasant Program."

A regional breakdown for the regular season stocking is as follows: Northwest Region, 7,290 males and 25,580 females; Southwest Region, 31,830 males and 11,890 females; Northcentral Region, 5,640 males and 12,210 females; Southcentral Region, 16,660 males and 6,460 females; Northeast Region, 11,470 males and 10,850 females; and Southeast Region, 30,930 males and 2,370 females. Regional allocations are based on the amount of suitable pheasant habitat open to public hunting and pheasant hunting pressure.

This year, the late season is scheduled for Dec. 13-23 and Dec. 27-Feb. 5, for Wildlife Management Units 1A, 1B, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A and 4D.

"Pheasant releases for the late season will take place just before the holidays to maximize recreational value for young hunters afield over school holidays, and others who may be on vacation," Riegner said.

A regional breakdown for the late-season hen stocking of 8,820 pheasants is as follows: Northwest Region, 2,820; Southwest Region, 1,220; Northcentral Region, 1,350; and Northeast Region, 1,600. Since hen pheasants are not legal game in the Southeast Region, no hen pheasants will be stocked in there for the late season.

For details on the pheasant seasons, please see pages 25-29 of the 2004- 2005 Pennsylvania Digest of Hunting & Trapping Regulations.

For a complete listing of pheasant stockings planned for each county, visit the Game Commission's website (http://www.pgc.state.pa.us) and click on "Hunting & Trapping," and choose "2004 Pheasant Stockings by County."

CLUBS STEP FORWARD TO OFFER MENTORED YOUTH PHEASANT HUNTS

Young Pennsylvania hunters will have more than 30 different mentored youth pheasant hunts to choose from thanks to the efforts of sportsmen's clubs that stepped forward to sponsor the programs as part of the Pennsylvania Game Commission's third annual youth pheasant season, which will be Oct. 9 and 11. This youth hunting opportunity is open to junior hunters ages 12 to 16 who have successfully completed a Hunter-Trapper Education course. However, there is no requirement that they purchase a junior license.

"The future of hunting is directly related to the continuing participation of young Pennsylvanians in our hunting seasons," said Vern Ross, Game Commission executive director. "While other states are seeing a decline in the number of young hunters, Pennsylvania is fortunate to see its junior license sales increase slightly over the past few years. I believe that increase can be attributed to the abundance of game throughout our Commonwealth, our state's long and proud hunting heritage and the strength of programs to promote youth hunting.

"One of the keys to promoting youth hunting is the tremendous effort of our hunting clubs. These groups are the grassroots organizations that sponsor Youth Field Day events and Hunter-Trapper Education courses throughout the year."

Working with the Pennsylvania State Chapter of Pheasants Forever, the Game Commission's Youth Pheasant Hunt Committee prepared a "Mentored Youth Pheasant Hunt Planning Guide" to enable groups to develop and sponsor a mentored youth pheasant hunt program.

Also, the youth pheasant hunt overlaps with the state's youth squirrel hunt. However, the Game Commission extended the youth squirrel hunt this year to run Oct. 9-15.

"Holding concurrent youth seasons for squirrel and ring-necked pheasants will offer variety to youths who participate in these small game-hunting opportunities," said Lori Richardson, Game Commission Outreach Coordinator and Youth Pheasant Hunt Committee chair. "The state's long-standing daily bag limit of two pheasants will apply to junior hunters participating in this season. Also, hens remain protected in the male-pheasant-only zones, and juniors may only harvest male pheasants in those designated wildlife management units."

The Game Commission will release 18,000 pheasants on land open to public hunting prior to the start of the two-day season, and an additional 2,000 pheasants will be divided and shipped to more than 30 sportsmen's clubs that have signed up to host a mentored youth pheasant hunt. Hunters, however, are not limited to hunting in only those areas where pheasants have been stocked. The pheasant stocking locations and pheasant hunting area maps are outlined on pages 26-29 of the 2004-2005 Pennsylvania Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations, as well as on the agency's website (http://www.pgc.state.pa.us).

"On behalf of the Game Commission, I would like to extend my sincere thanks and praise to the members of these clubs for sponsoring a mentored youth pheasant hunt, and for all that they do to preserve and pass along our state's rich and proud hunting heritage to a new generation," Ross said. Following is a county listing of the clubs that are hosting mentored youth pheasant hunts:

ADAMS/YORK: The Mechanicsburg Sportsmen's Association.

ALLEGHENY: Bull Creek Rod & Gun Club.

ARMSTRONG: The Apollo-Spring Church Sportsman's Club.

ARMSTRONG/INDIANA: The Keystone Sportsmen Club.

BEAVER: Koppel-Big Beaver Sportsman Association and Penn's Woods Pointing
Dog Trainers Inc.

BEDFORD/FULTON: The Bedford/Fulton Chapter of Pheasants Forever.

BERKS: The Bally Gun Club.

CENTRE: The Three Point Sportsman Club.

CLARION: The German Shorthaired Pointer Club of Greater Pittsburgh and
the Oak Ridge Pointing Dog Club.

ELK: North Central Chapter 630 of Pheasants Forever.

FAYETTE: The Fairbank Rod & Gun Club and the Wharton Township Hunting &
Fishing Club.

FRANKLIN: Cumberland Valley Pheasants Forever and Mercersburg Sportsmen's
Club.

LAWRENCE: The Ellwood/Wampum Rod & Gun.

MIFFLIN: Mifflin County Pheasant Forever.

MONTOUR: Central Susquehanna Pheasants Forever and the North Montour
Sportsmens Association.

PERRY: Hyd-A-Del Shooting Preserve.

PIKE: The Promiseland Sportsman's Association.

SCHUYLKILL: The Valley View Gun Club and the Friedendsburg Fish & Game
Association.

SOMERSET: The Glencoe Sportsmen's Club

WARREN: Kalbfus Rod & Gun Club and the Warren County Pheasants Forever.

WASHINGTON: The Claysville Sportsman Club.

WESTMORELAND: The Deputy Wildlife Conservation Officers of Westmoreland
County; the Youngwood Sportsmen; the Little Sewickley Sportsman
Association; the Laurel Highland Chapter of Pheasants Forever and the
Kingston Veterans & Sportsmen Club; the National Wild Turkey Federation
Local #1; the Rostraver Sportsmen & Conservation Association; and the
Derry Rod & Gun Club.


Other recent Game Commission initiatives to promote youth hunting opportunities include: a youth spring gobbler season established in 2004; a youth squirrel hunt created in 1996 and expanded in 2004; a waterfowl hunt initiated in 1996; special antlerless deer harvesting opportunities opened in 1998, and expanded in 2000; and youth field days implemented in the early 1990s. Also, as part of the license fee increase approved in 1998, the General Assembly created a junior combination license that packages regular license privileges with archery, flintlock and furtaking opportunities for $9, compared to the regular junior license price of $6.




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Source: Pennsylvania Game Commission

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