HARRISBURG, PA – Thirty-eight junior hunters drawn by lottery soon will experience the thrill of seeing a wild pheasant rooster pounding skyward while having the special opportunity to harvest it.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission today announced the application process for the third annual Central Susquehanna Wild Pheasant Recovery Area (WPRA) youth hunt.
Last year’s hunt, held over two Saturday mornings, saw close to 200 birds flush ahead of the lucky young hunters, and this year should be just as fantastic.
A total of 38 permits will be issued to licensed junior hunters between the ages of 12 and 16. Applications are due by Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019. Successful applicants will be notified following a Sept. 17 random drawing, and further coordination concerning the hunt will follow.
Youth hunters will be assigned one hunt date – either the morning of Nov. 2 or the morning of Nov. 9 – and each hunter will be assigned a “hunt mentor” to ensure safety and serve as a guide. The Game Commission encourages each permittee to be accompanied by an adult parent or guardian so that the experience can be shared. Following the hunt, permitees and their guests are invited to attend a free luncheon provided by Pheasants Forever.
Youth hunters can apply through the Commissions online application process found at: https://pgcdatacollection.pa.gov/PheasantYouthHuntApplication
Pennsylvania’s pheasant hunting tradition started in the early 20th century, when ringnecks from Asia were introduced to the state for hunting purposes. Their rapid expansion throughout agricultural areas resulted in hunters embracing the new hunting opportunity.
Wild pheasant populations took hold and continued to grow through the 1960s and peaked in the early 1970s. However, changing agricultural practices, land development, and re-forestation led to the decline of wild pheasants throughout the state and, by the end of the 20th century, it was unknown if viable wild populations still existed.
The Game Commission continued to raise and release game-farm pheasants, but sportsmen still longed for the glory days of hunting wild birds and the agency was tasked with investigating whether a wild population could be restored.
The WPRA program was a key objective within the agency’s 2008-2017 Ring-necked Pheasant Management Plan for Pennsylvania and looked to identify four habitat areas of at least 10,000 acres where wild pheasants from western states could be stocked. The primary goal of the program was to restore self-sustaining and huntable ring-necked pheasant populations in suitable habitat.
This effort was initiated by the formation of a partnership between the Game Commission, Pheasants Forever, and dedicated landowners within proposed management and release sites. Located in Northumberland, Montour and Columbia counties, the Central Susquehanna WPRA, experienced the most significant wild pheasant population increase since the initial release of 992 wild-trapped birds from South Dakota and Montana. A youth hunt first was conducted there in 2017.
Pennsylvania has one other active WPRA – the Franklin County WPRA, which first received wild pheasants in 2014 and has not yet produced a huntable population. Two other previous WPRAs, the Somerset WPRA and Hegins-Gratz Valley WPRA were dissolved in recent years after surveys concluded the goal of huntable populations would not be met, but the hunting of propagated pheasants has resumed there.