A cock pheasant squawked yesterday morning from somewhere down our fencerow. More than likely, he came from the game lands near the North Mountain. Every now and then we get a cock pheasant that flies over, and I’ve taken to calling them Daniel Boones.
Because of the changes in farming practices over the last half century, I can’t imagine ever seeing wild pheasants again in our valley. But Ruffles, our Springer spaniel, and I are willing to accept the fantasy of pheasants flushing from weeds and fencerows on our game lands.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission stocks a lot of full grown, farm-raised birds on their game lands for hunters to enjoy the flushing cackle of the colorful birds, and to take a few home for the pot.
Once you accept that the birds were raised in pens and stocked by employees a day or two before we hunt them, then it’s almost like stepping back a half century and walking behind a dog over harvested cornfields to flush what we called wild pheasants.
Those weren’t all wild pheasants then, either.
Farm kids raised some with chicks provided by the Game Commission. Clubs stocked some, and even the game commission stocked a lot of birds to supplement the wild population.
Ed and I spent a few days following Ruffles as she worked the scent, filling her nose with the smell of big cackling game birds. Even on days when no birds were stocked, she found enough for us to shoot.
Of the birds we hunted, our little Springer brought back three wounded birds that other hunters had shot at, but didn’t recover.
Those three would have fallen prey to predators because of broken wings, but they became part of our limit even though we would have preferred to shoot our own.
I wish hunters wishing to hunt these few stocked birds would spend some time shooting at clay target before the season and learning to do a bit better job of knowing where to shoot.
To find a shooting preserve where a commercial farm stocks four birds per hunter will cost a hunter somewhere around $100. On Game Lands 169 and 230, last week the Game Commission stocked 900 pheasants, not to mention the prior week’s stocking and several more in future weeks. For the cost of a $25 permit, a hunter can shoot two of those birds each day. I call that a bargain.