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Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks administers a program to release pen-raised pheasants on private land. Applications need to be submitted to the region 7 headquarters in Miles City prior to the May 15 deadline. The idea is to release pheasants into habitats that provide the yearlong needs of a pheasant population. Adequate food sources, winter and nesting cover are evaluated to determine if they will support the birds throughout the year. The purpose of the program is to provide the public with recreational opportunities and potentially supplement or establish productive pheasant populations.

The program requires the landowner to allow reasonable amount of free public hunting and they cannot charge for hunting or access to the acres enrolled in the pheasant release program.

FWP wildlife biologists follow a review format to evaluate acreage submitted by application from the landowner that includes analysis of the available winter/woody cover, nesting/security cover and food source acres all within one mile of the release site. The review suggests the likelihood of pheasant survival. It assists with determination of how many pheasants the habitat can support. Results of 27 different studies indicate maximum pheasant densities of one bird for every three acres are what good to excellent habitat will support.

FWP and the landowner develop a contract for the planned pheasant release. FWP agrees to pay $6.27 per live bird released that is 10 weeks or older and in good health, beginning to show adult plumage and has been certified as having come from an approved commercial pheasant outlet. The pheasant release has to occur between August 1 through September 15 and an FWP employee must be present during the release. At least 40 % of the released birds must be roosters.

The program is funded from resident and non-resident upland game bird license sales. All resident upland bird licenses and sportsmen’s licenses sold provide $2.00 to the program while non-resident upland game bird licenses and B-10 combination licenses provide $23.00 each to the fund. The program also provides cost share for Upland Game Bird Habitat Improvement projects. This hunter-sponsored program will provide additional public upland game bird hunting opportunity this fall and may result in additional pheasant populations becoming established.

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