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It may not be a native species to the US, but the number one game bird among US hunters is still the ring-necked pheasant.

The popular game bird was introduced into the country in 1881. It was Judge Denny, the American Consul General in China that introduced the bird when he sent 30 birds to his home in Oregon. The birds proved to be so successful that two years later he shipped another shipment.

On the east coast, pheasants were first introduced only slightly later in 1888. It was Rutherford-Stuyvesant estate at Allamuchy, N.J. that brought the birds to the area through a gamekeeper named Dunn from Scotland.

The first designated hunting season in New York took place in 1908. The sport had a golden age in the 1960s and 1970s but since then there are fewer wild pheasants. Yet there are hunting opportunities being provided in the state thanks to the involvement of dedicated hunters through DEC programs.

The two programs; Adult Pheasant Release Program and Day-Old Pheasant Chick Program are both efforts to continue to boost pheasant populations in the area to help hunters bag their favourite game bird. Combined, the two programs release approximately 90,000 adult pheasants into 100 DEC managed public hunting grounds across the state.

The Day-Old Chick Program is the largest contributor with two thirds of the birds released originating from them. This program sees that day old chicks are hatched at a game farm and then distributed to 160 different locations to be raised and released by various organisations and individuals.

Both programs have come under fire however. Opponents to the scheme suggest that neither program supports the local population, as the pheasants through this scheme have a significantly lower chance of survival that other pheasants and the long term goals of any organisation should be to improve pheasant populations, not just to supply pheasants to be shot that year.

Still, without this program, there wouldn’t be enough pheasants for the annual hunting season in the state.

What are your thoughts about the programs? Have you participated in either?

Let us know in the comments below.

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