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Western Washington Pheasant Hunting
By Patricia Thompson, Wildlife Biologist and Curt Young, Wildlife Area Manager

Many people in the state of Washington enjoy the sport of pheasant hunting. There are currently 26 pheasant release sites in western Washington with12 sites in Region 4 (Island, King, Skagit, Snohomish, and Whatcom counties), 5 sites in Region 5 (Clark, Cowlitz and Lewis counties), and 9 sites in Region 6 (Clallam, Grays Harbor, Mason, Pacific, Pierce and Thurston counties).

Western Washington has less-than-ideal climate and habitat for natural pheasant reproduction and these birds find it difficult to nest successfully. Although there are some agricultural areas, the lack of grain farming and the wet, cold, spring climate doesn’t result in significant natural populations. The Western Washington Pheasant Release program provides a hunting opportunity and encourages participation from young and older aged hunters. Visit the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Internet site for more detailed information on W. Washington Pheasant Release Program at

Release sites are selected on the basis of ownership, hunting cover, safety and availability of land to hunters. The number of pheasants released on each site is based on the estimated numbers of hunters using those sites. This estimate is in part, based on permit punch card returns. That’s why it is so important to return the cards.

For example in Region 4 in 2002, the Snoqualmie Wildlife Area received approximately 4,700 pheasants on the Cherry Valley, Crescent Lake and Stillwater units. On Whidbey Island, OLF-Coupeville, Sea Plane Base, Ebey Prairie/Arnold Farm and Bayview obtained about 1,550 pheasants, with the Sea Plane Base getting the bulk. The Skagit Wildlife Area, including Smith Farm, got about 4,480 pheasants; in Whatcom Co., Lake Terrell, including ARCO and Intelco release sites, received 4,150.

The releases start in late September with the Senior/Juvenile special hunt and continue until the end of November, usually Thanksgiving. Typically, birds are released five days per week in the late afternoon on the Snoqualmie Wildlife Area; however, this year with budget cuts and lower staffing levels, releases may not occur as frequently. The Skagit, Whidby Island, and Lake Terrell releases are usually made on weekends and one weekday. The Department often uses volunteers to release the birds.

The Lewis County Game Farm established in 1946 is the WDFW’s one remaining pheasant rearing facility run by the State. All other facilities were gradually phased out by 1996. The objective for the game farm, after development of more facilities, will raise about 40,000 pheasant per year. The operation cost for the game farm was about $290,000 in 2000.

Some Myths and Tips on Hunting Western Washington Pheasant Release Sites.

1. If you don’t get a bird within 45 minutes the area is “all shot out.” - This assumption leads to the behavior where 70 percent of the hunters leave the field by 10:30 A.M. Many times just slowing down will result in success.

2. If there are only a few shots fired in the first half hour, “there were no birds planted or they were all dumped in one spot.” - Throughout the history of the program, there have been very few times when birds were not released on the day scheduled. Release schedules vary from site to site.

3. Hunt slowly and give your dog a chance to swing back and forth in front of you. Do not get out ahead of your dog because you “want to beat the crowd.”

4. If you complain about the crowds at 8 A.M. start your hunt at 10 A.M. Yes, there will be fewer birds, but I assure you there are still birds to be had. You just have to hunt harder and smarter for them.

5. Trust your dog, but don’t walk around blind. Hunt slower in areas with heavy cover. Physically workout likely spots, or quit walking and let the dog work. Many birds get nervous and flee if they no longer can hear you walking away from them.

6. Train your dogs with pheasant scent so they know what to look for. Train dogs to keep close and ignore other dogs. A dog out more than 70 feet will flush birds for other hunters.

7. Practice on the trap range beforehand, so you can hit a bird once it flushes.

8. Keep track of where other hunters and dogs are. Be a safe hunter!

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