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19
Pennsylvania Game Commission Encourages Clubs to Participate in Pheasant Chick and Egg Program
Wednesday January 18, 10:59 am ET

HARRISBURG, Pa., Jan. 18 /PRNewswire/ -- Sportsmen's organizations with qualified propagation facilities can augment the Pennsylvania Game Commission's pheasant propagation efforts and increase localized recreational hunting opportunities by raising day-old pheasant chicks supplied free-of-charge by the agency.
Applications to participate can be downloaded from the agency's website (http://www.pgc.state.pa.us), by clicking on "Forms & Programs" and then selecting "Pheasant Chick & Egg Program." In order to plan and set hatches to accommodate requests, the Bureau of Wildlife Management must receive completed applications by March 31.

"We invite interested clubs, in fact, we urge clubs, to participate in this program," said Carl F. Riegner, Game Commission Pheasant Propagation Division chief. "All pheasants propagated by organizations must be released on lands open to public hunting."

In 1929, the Game Commission began the propagation of pheasants on an extensive scale with the establishment of two game farms. Over the next six decades, to off-set the increasing demand for pheasants from hunters, three other farms were placed into operation, and the day-old pheasant chick program was implemented and made available to sportsmen's organizations, 4-H clubs, farmers, and other cooperators for rearing and release on areas of public hunting.

In 1959, the number of pheasant chicks distributed to cooperators reached 229,685, an all-time high, in addition to the more than 88,500 pheasants raised and released by the agency at its four game farms. Unfortunately, cooperator participation has dwindled significantly over the last few decades; in recent years only a dozen or so clubs have participated raising and releasing 3,000-4,000 birds.

Because of budgetary constraints, the Game Commission was forced to reduce its annual pheasant stocking allocation from 200,000 to 100,000 for the 2005-06 small game seasons, which were produced at three game farms. The Game Commission expects to keep pheasant production at 100,000 for the 2006-07 small game seasons and for the foreseeable future until a license fee increase is approved or other financial resources are made available.

Riegner said that the agency provides, free of charge, day-old pheasant chicks to clubs entering into an agreement with the Game Commission to propagate birds and promote recreational hunting on lands open to public hunting. Gender is not determined as the chicks are boxed for distribution, but are generally at a one-to-one ratio. The number of chicks received depends on the size of the club's facility. The agency will provide enrolled clubs with plans for a brooder building, covered pen, and guidelines for rearing pheasants.

"The agency also offers enrolled organizations technical assistance and advice at the club's facility, and a training session and overview of agency game farm operations is scheduled during the off-season to assist development of the club's program," Riegner said.

To be eligible to receive pheasant chicks, a sportsmen's club is required to have a minimum of 25 square feet of covered pen space available per bird. In addition, 72 square inches of floor space per chick is recommended in the brooder building. All feed and expenses incurred in the work of constructing covered pens and raising pheasants will be the responsibility of the club.

Pheasant chicks can be raised at the cooperator's facility or by a designated caretaker with the proper facilities. Maximum returns are attained by releasing pheasants as close to the opening of small game season as possible and no later than the end of the second week of the season.

"Our hatches come off once a week during the month of May, and the chicks for clubs will be scheduled into those hatches," Riegner said. "Game farm superintendents will send notification to approved organizations when chicks will be ready for pick-up."

The Game Commission requires a complete report of the production and release results. Renewal applications will not be processed unless a complete report has been filed for the prior year.

In addition to the cooperating sportsmen's club program, the agency also sells surplus day-old hen pheasant chicks and eggs in lots of 100 chicks for $60 or 300 eggs for $180. Early requests receive top priority and orders are processed until the last scheduled hatch, which usually is the first week of June. While day-old hen pheasant chicks may be purchased by anyone, pheasant eggs will be sold only to licensed game propagators. Both eggs and chicks must be picked up at the supplying Game Commission game farm.

Applications to purchase surplus day-old hen pheasant chicks or pheasant eggs can be downloaded from the agency's website (http://www.pgc.state.pa.us), by clicking on "Forms & Programs" and then selecting "Pheasant Chick & Egg Program."

The pheasant is native to Asia. Recorded attempts to establish pheasants in North America date back to the mid 1700s. These early attempts were unsuccessful; it wasn't until 1881, in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, that pheasants first became established.

During the early 1890s, private Pennsylvania citizens purchased pheasants from English gamekeepers and released them in Lehigh and Northampton counties. For several decades, many other small releases were made across the Commonwealth to establish pheasants for sport hunting.

During the early 1900s, the Game Commission set aside a special appropriation of funds to purchase and propagate game. Pheasant eggs were purchased and given to agency refuge keepers, sportsmen's organizations and private individuals interested in raising pheasants. The first stocking of pheasants by the Game Commission occurred by 1915.

For more information on pheasants and the history of the agency's pheasant propagation program, visit the Game Commission's website (http://www.pgc.state.pa.us), click on "Wildlife" then choose "Pheasant."

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