I've always said, until that question is answered, we're wasting time and money on pheasant programs.
Wild pheasants went from boom to bust in about five years in my area of Franklin Co. No change in anything during that time... same fallow fields, same crop rotation.....only thing different was "no-till" farming was introduced.
The difference is that pheasants will nest in hay fields where hay fields exist. In the states that have wild pheasants there is very little hay mowing. In Pennsylvania there is extensive hay mowing.
Back when Penna. had wild pheasants hay fields were mowed with old slow moving sickle bar mowers in late June, after the majority of the pheasants had already completed their nesting cycle.
With the earlier hay mowing and faster and closer mowing we have today studies have shown that they are killing about 90% of the hens on their nest. When you kill the nesting hens you just went out of the pheasant propagation business.
Predation has no effect on it once you killed the hens on the nest.
I used see wild pheasant behind my house all the time but that was over 30 years ago. The last time I saw a wild bird was in the late 90s when I would train my English pointer on airport property in Northeast Philadelphia.
In my early teens my friends and I bow hunted those birds many years ago there.
In later years I would run my English Setter up there for training. The place was loaded with birds.
One day running the old girl there she was going crazy, there was a net in the one field with about 25 birds under it.
At the time I could only assume it was a trap and transfer operation by whom I don't know.
We use to park behind the Penn Jersey auto warehouse. Those were the day's.
160 acre CRP fields, the money out of state hunters spend, and if you hunted with outfitter a lot of the birds were probably stocked.
That's not even remotely true. We did hunt with a guide, who has access to 15,000 acres. We drove to town one morning, probably saw close to 400 birds on the way in to town and back. They are not stocked birds.
Driving back to the airport the last day, we did drive past a pen closer to Aberdeen where birds were being raised, but seriously, no one could afford to stock the number of birds we flushed in 3 days, with the prospect of them all flying to other properties.