Bob Frye / Tribune-Review
Sportsmen’s clubs can get free pheasant chicks to raise and stock for hunting, but, as of late, there have been few willing to get involved.
It takes a commitment of time and money, no doubt.
But, sportsmen’s groups interested in small game hunting and pheasant hunting in particular can get day-old chicks – for free – to raise and stock on lands open to public hunting.
Never heard of it? That wouldn’t be surprising.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission supplies sportsmen’s clubs with trout to raise and stock. Roughly 160 clubs take advantage of the opportunity, and release about one million adult fish into commonwealth waterways open to public fishing each year.
Given that the commission itself stocks about three million, that’s one-quarter of all the fish released in a year’s time, put out by volunteers.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission has a similar program with pheasant chicks.
It gets few takers.
“In recent years, only a dozen or so clubs have participated, raising and releasing 4,000 to 5,000 birds,” the commission admits in a recent press release.
By comparison, the commission stocks about 215,000 birds a year.
Things weren’t always that way. In fact, they used to be just the opposite.
According to commission figures, in 1959 the agency stocked 88,500 ringnecks, while co-ops run by sportsmen’s clubs, 4H clubs, farmers and others raised and stocked an all-time high of 229,685.
The commission is trying to build that volunteer program back up.
Would-be participants have to meet some standards. There are minimums in terms of square feet of covered pen space and floor space per chick. Clubs have to supply their own feed, stock birds on land open to public hunting and fill out an annual report.
But help is available, said Wayne Laroche, chief of the commission’s bureau of wildlife management.
In addition to providing chicks – typically on a one-to-one basis of males to females – it offers 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 can be scheduled during the off‑season from January through March to assist in development of the club’s program,” Laroche said.
Clubs interested in getting involved can find an application and more information by clicking here.
Completed applications are due by March 31.