Better AG Practices = More Pheasants and More Profit - The HuntingPA.com Outdoor Community
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post #1 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-13-2020, 01:51 PM Thread Starter
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Better AG Practices = More Pheasants and More Profit

This is not rocket science and really is not a new concept. It seems in most cases the main ingredient that's missing is related to the attitude of AG operation owners / managers and government funding incentives.

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post #2 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-13-2020, 02:02 PM
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Good article. No doubt that providing food, cover and nesting habitat is the key to pheasants, but South Dakota has something Pennsylvania doesn't have... unbroken habitat. The insurmountable problem in Pa. is fragmentation of habitat due to development and there is no going back on that.
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post #3 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-13-2020, 05:22 PM
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Besides the habitat fragmentation in Pennsylvania there are some additional things that factor into the differences in pheasant numbers between Pennsylvania and South Dakota.

One of those factors is that where there are hay fields pheasants prefer them for nesting. In South Dakota there is very little hay mowing and most fields are either planted in crops or reserved for for grazing. In Pennsylvania a high percentage of our agricultural lands experience hay mowing and the mowing is done early in the year with fast moving equipment. Some studies have indicated that as many as 90% of the nesting hens are killed on the nest by early hay mowing. When you kill the nesting hens you are out of the pheasant propagation business.

Another factor that plays into the pheasant numbers for South Dakota hunters verse Pennsylvania hunters comes in the little known fact that South Dakota typically stocks about 500,000 pheasants a year before their hunting season. That is more than twice as many as are stocked in Pennsylvania.

Also in South Dakota only roosters are legal to harvest so they keep a lot more hens each fall to replenish their wild pheasant populations each year. That works there because they aren't chopping the heads off their nesting hens while mowing the hay fields the next spring. Here we might as well allow hunters to harvest the hens in the fall as having scavengers eating them after the hay mower kills them on their nests the next spring.

There are some really big differences between the two states. Those differences make it impossible to say what works there should also work here. There is no question habitat plays a huge rule in each state but there are other factors that have to be weighed in as well.

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post #4 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-13-2020, 05:27 PM
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How much of PA reverts to native grasslands?
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post #5 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-13-2020, 06:37 PM
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As RSB said, the early mowing of hay is a huge factor in trying to sustain a wild pheasant population. The dairy biz in PA is huge, so farmers are going to maximize the tonnage they can get off the fields. That means chopping rye, triticale, and alfalfa in May....and farming mostly every corner they can. Not a good recipe for pheasants.

Also as RSB stated, piles and piles of pheasants are stocked in SD to keep the lore of wild birds in place for the SD tourism biz. If memory serves, the outfitters are required to stock one bird for each one taken by one of their clients.

Private farmers buy birds to stock their farms for out of state hunters coming in for a wild pheasant hunting trip. If there are birds on your land, there is money that can be made in SD.
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post #6 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-13-2020, 06:38 PM
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They do make a lot of hay along the roads in South Dakota. I went thru there in August of 2018 and was amazed that they bale the hay in the median and along the highway, for miles and miles. As a once young PA kid who put a lot of hay up I had never seen that here, thought it was of note, my guess is also pheasants don't nest next to the highway as much as the ones around here who tend to like to direct traffic quite often to their own demise so it results in far fewer next disturbances too.

Sadly most of my life has been wasted, but the rest I spent hunting, fishing, and trapping...
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post #7 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-13-2020, 06:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RegularJoe View Post
They do make a lot of hay along the roads in South Dakota. I went thru there in August of 2018 and was amazed that they bale the hay in the median and along the highway, for miles and miles. As a once young PA kid who put a lot of hay up I had never seen that here, thought it was of note, my guess is also pheasants don't nest next to the highway as much as the ones around here who tend to like to direct traffic quite often to their own demise so it results in far fewer next disturbances too.
The grass hay in the ditches and medians would be mowed off at a much later summer date, allowing most of the hens to be mobile with their clutch of chicks....leading to higher survival rates.
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post #8 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-13-2020, 07:02 PM
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I find it hard to believe the habitat fragmentation theory. The demise was so sudden it seemed to happen in a few short years. We were wearing them out when I was 12 (1971) and they were gone in 8-9 yrs. The habitat or farming practices did not change at all in that time period.
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post #9 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-14-2020, 01:06 PM Thread Starter
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Crop management practices and equipment upgrades, changes in pesticide types, changes in government subsidies, all went through significant changes through the 70's and 80's to the detriment of upland wildlife including pheasants. I distinctly remember a farm in the northeast hills portion of Ohio that had good pheasant populations that declined dramatically with changes in farm subsidies and set asides. Almost all of the grassland meadows in that area were turned over to crop production, mostly corn, in the early 70's and the pheasants pretty much all disappeared within 2 years. That area had a native quail population that also disappeared then.
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post #10 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-14-2020, 01:17 PM
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interesting article and interesting comparisons between the two states . maybe something will come out of this that can be used in Pennsylvania. thanks for posting
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