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HARRISBURG - The Pennsylvania Game Commission has slated 200,000 ring-necked pheasants for release throughout the Commonwealth for the upcoming small game hunting seasons. In addition, 20,000 birds will be released for the second-ever Youth Pheasant Hunt, which is scheduled for Oct. 11 and 13 (please see following article for details on the Youth Pheasant Hunt).

"Although it has been a tough year raising pheasants with all of the wet weather, the birds did exceptionally well and it appears as if we will have extra birds this year," said Carl F. Riegner, chief of the agency's Propagation Division. "On the positive side, the extra wet weather this year has provided dense herbaceous, shrubby cover that will provide more escape cover for the birds once we release them into the wild. This will make for a more traditional hunting scenario."

Opening day of the pheasant season is Oct. 25, and closes on Nov. 29. Pheasants will be stocked for four consecutive weeks in each region starting the week of Oct. 20, prior to the opening day. Preseason releases will consist of 30 percent of the fall allocation, the first two in-season releases will be 25 percent, and the third in-season release will consist of 20 percent of the fall allocation.

"The best opportunities to bag pheasants still exist on State Game Lands where habitat is managed for pheasants," Riegner said. "Although wild pheasant populations remain very low, excellent hunting opportunities can be enjoyed with the quality pheasants the Commission is releasing.

"With the earlier start for pheasant hunting this year, we plan to conduct one pre-season opening stocking, followed by three consecutive in-season stockings. We are planning to do most of the pheasant stockings closer to the weekend to maximize hunting opportunities."

During the regular fall season, pheasants will be stocked on State Game Lands, certain properties enrolled in the agency's Cooperative Farm-Game and Safety Zone public access programs, and select state parks and federal lands. Game Commission regional offices have an updated publication titled A Guide To Pheasant Releases And More, which identifies State Game Lands, and those state parks and federal lands with suitable habitat that receive pheasant stockings. The publication also is posted on the Game Commission's website, and can be viewed by clicking on Hunters/Trappers, then choosing PGC's Pheasant Program.

A regional breakdown for the regular season stocking is as follows: Northwest Region, 11,180 males and 23,830 females; Southwest Region, 27,930 males and 15,010 females; Northcentral Region, 2,300 males and 15,420 females; Southcentral Region, 21,150 males and 3,820 females; Northeast Region, 9,790 males and 13,030 females; and Southeast Region 29,200 males and 3,340 females. Regional allocations are based on the amount of suitable pheasant habitat open to public hunting and pheasant hunting pressure.

This year, the late season is scheduled for Dec. 15-23 and Dec. 26-Feb. 7.

"Pheasant releases for the late season will take place just before the holidays to maximize recreational value for young hunters afield over school holidays, and others who may be on vacation," Riegner said.

A regional breakdown for the late-season hen stocking of 6,000 pheasants is as follows: Northwest Region, 1,400; Southwest Region, 1,600; Northcentral Region, 1,400; and Northeast Region, 1,600. Since hen pheasants are not legal game in the Southcentral or Southeast regions, no hen pheasants will be stocked in these two regions for the late season.

For details on the pheasant seasons, please see pages 25-29 of the 2003-2004 Pennsylvania Digest of Hunting & Trapping Regulations.

For a complete listing of pheasant stockings planned for each county, visit the Game Commission's website and click on Hunting Information, and choose 2003 Pheasant Stockings by County.

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