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Discussion Starter #1
I saw where they had a good flush rate at one of the reintroduction sites. Great news. But were these birds that were put out as adults or young that were raised here? As one area was shut down, I was wondering if these birds are actually reproducing. As these birds can reproduce at high rates if conditions are right. Read where out on the west coast 26 birds reproduced to the point that in 10 or 11 years they had a harvest of 50,000 birds. However now with the predation of avain predators I would think it will be impossible for these birds to come back here . I talked to the fellow that works with the project and he said the majority that are killed are killed by birds of prey. I didn't ask but I wonder if any of the birds are also dying of desease or starvation. It sounds like this pheasant project will fail like the last attempt with the sichuns. I know many guys on this sight have worked hard to help with these projects, and have given them suitable habitat. With the numbers stocked they should now be in the thousands if this project is working. Does anybody have a guess on the numbers now? I think that even with the large number of birds stocked they will not be able to come back, because of the avain predators. Most people try to look for the easy way out and try to make habitat improvements, when the problem is the predators. Maybe letters and calls to our representives is the answer. Anyone can improve habitat, but so far no one has been able to get small game numbers back where they once were. Maybe someone smart enough can get some of the political protection removed from the avain predators since the numbers are so high. Until then our pheasant recovery program will likely fail. Politics and game management do not work.
 

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I don't think it is the raptors that prevent the pheasant and quail from making a comeback. With good habitat and truly wild birds it could happen. Will it ever be statewide and like it was years ago? Probably not. The interconnected "good" habitat is just not here anymroe.

Anyone can improve habitat and should do that. Getting the wild birds to the property is a little tougher. Pen raised birds will not work. It must be wild trapped birds or F1 hybrids to really make a go at it. Even then it is a ton of work to maintain good habitat and most farmers just do not have the time or do not want to farm teh old ways anymore. So new ideas to go with the new farming practices need to blend together to get some good interconnecting habitat and large areas.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Angus, we have the good habitat in the recovery areas, and we have the wild hardy birds from out west. I guess time will tell. These recovery areas will be the test. A lot of work has gone into this project.
 

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bpottorff said:
Angus, we have the good habitat in the recovery areas, and we have the wild hardy birds from out west. I guess time will tell. These recovery areas will be the test. A lot of work has gone into this project.
Yes I am aware. Seems that the WPRA's are doing pretty well. The birds are not going to expand too far without the proper habitat to go to.
 

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bpottorf, did you get a chance to see any of the news clips WNEP ch. 16 did about the WPRA around Turbotville (I'm pretty sure that's where it was)? It's been a little while since they did them and I don't think they are available any longer. But they were able to track some hens in the spring/summer and find them with broods. So the birds are reproducing. We just have to wait and see how well they do. I think as more is learned changes can be made to help increase numbers.

It is not good to compare the current wild pheasant program with the sichuns. Those were pen raised birds that came from Michigan. I think Michigan sold any birds they had left after their attempt failed. But they were using pen raised birds for that and not wild ones. I think the Central Susquehanna Valley PF web site had a graph or something on that.

Last year I helped out with the flushing survey in the Higans-Gratz WPRA and our group was in an area that did not receive any of the wild birds. But we were still able to find a few hens and roosters in the area. It is hard to say if they were born in PA or if some of the released birds moved into the area but I thought it was a good sign to find birds many miles away from the release site. Only time will tell if this effort will work or not. But I'm glad it is being tried.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks,Bwire Its good to hear that news. I always think the worst when I don't hear any news. Its always good to come on here and see some people who are optomistic. I never saw the clips. My thoughts were that the coopers would be hard on the chicks.
 

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bpottorf, your question is a good one and i have responded to it many times before but i will gladly give you the answers you seek.

First, lets start with the difference between PA 40 years ago and PA today. Back when we had lots of pheasants we had an agricultural set aside program similar to the current CREP program that provided lots of nesting and cover to pheasants. Corn fields were cultivated and not sprayed. Foxtail grew knee high and corn stalks were allowed to stand over the winter providing cover for wintering birds. We also had more and wider hedge rows where birds could seek shelter from predators. Around the early 70s the soil conservation program was discontinued and all the land whent back in production. Corn fields and other crops are now sprayed for weeds and then mowed flat after harvest. Alfalfa became the top hay crop and became a death trap for nesting hens as it is mowed befroe hens can pull off a nest. All these things caused the pheasant population to plumet in PA.

Something changed 10 years ago when a new conservation program was introduced called CREP. It provided for the same set aside we had in the 60s but also implemented the planting of warm and cool season grasses to give cover for grassland wildlife. In Montour County there were more acres in CREP than there were in the old land bank days of the 60s. We still had the sprayed fields, thin hedgerows and alfalfa but we hoped this new grassland would be the key to recover a wild pheasant population. So work began to trap and transfer wild birds from Montana and South Dakota. Three different release areas inside our WPRA were picked out and over 900 pheasants were released here over three years.

Where are we now? My spring crowing count through the WPRA has been increasing for six years in a row. Three years after the last pheasants were released here the numbers continue to climb. I have birds crowing at every stop on a 10 mile route. Based on the life expectancy of a wild pheasant, these birds are card carrying PA native born birds. The birds from Montana and South Dakota are gone. We have one farm where we regularly flush over 80 wild pheasants. This farm is the poster child of the project and it has an unusual story. The NRCS told CREP farmers that they had to use a certain diverse mix of grasses and plants. While this mix was good for brood rearing and summer and fall cover it is found to have little winter cover value. On this farm with 80 birds the landowner wanted to use his own drill to plant his seed. Switch grass is the only grass with a seed that can be planted with a regular seed drill. So the NRCS let this one farmer plant 60 acres of switch grass. Had it not been for this one farm that was planted with only switchgrass, we would have a poor success on average. We didn't start this program to have two or three pheasants on a farm. EIGHTY, now that's more like it. We are now in the process of replanting as much habitat as we can with switchgrass inside the WPRA. The more we can replicate this habitat on the landscape, the higher the numbers will climb. Here is a link for a video of the flushing survey on this farm two years ago. We hope to see even more this year. We don't think all CREP should be just switch grass be we need a lot more of it as fast as we can plant it as large fields of switch grass in an agricultural landscape has shown that high numbers of pheasants can survive. We now have reopened CREP in these counties so new acres can be signed up. While we are losing some acres from the CREP program, just as many are resigning for another 10 or 15 years.

http://www.centralsusquehannapf.org/page66.html
 

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Great video Lynn! I see the PGC moving toward ceasing their participation in the Wild Pheasant Recovery program. To me that's sad, but it was probably predictable.
 

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Rather than see them consider dropping it, we think it makes more sense to take what they have learned from the data they have paid to collect and applying it to make the program a success.
 

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lynn Nobody is praying this works more than I am. We may never see the numbers compared to western states but it doesn't have to be in my book to be a success.

I grew up in Lawrence couty and began hunting in 1968. We had a breeding population of pheasants at that time. My dad bought me my first English Setter puppy in the spring of 69 and it was fairly easy to find a dozen or so pheasants to work the pup on any evening. During the first part of the season the hunting pressure was unbelievable. The game commission still stocked alot of birds in this area at that time. What am leading up to is I think that the bird you are working with now in the WPRA's is far superior to the birds I grew up with because game farm birds haven't been introduced into the gene pole. I wish the program the best of luck and hope someday we can reep the benefits.
 

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Your hunting biography sounds just like mine. I'm sure the reason I have a setter now is my dad had a setter when I first started to hunt.
 

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Pghbirdhunter said:
Why does it matter if you use pen raised birds vs wild birds?
A wild bird chick has a mamma to teach it about survival. A pen raised bird learns nothing from a light bulb.

Pen raised birds can survive at times in good habitat but they don't have what it takes to pull off a brood. If pen raised birds were the answer then PA wouldn't have to stock pheasants.

I have nothing against pen raised birds and run my dogs often on them. That's about all I have in the area but they will not result in any type of wild bird population.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Wild birds are better because they can reproduce better. And don,t cost anything stocking wise. Think of the squirrel population now, this is the way pheasants used to be reproducing on their own. The game commision did stock some birds in some areas. Our habitat today can not support pheasants because of the avain predation, you would need netting over all areas, Many people are working hard to bring them back. New areas are set up with very good habitat, however my own thoughts are that the hawk and owl numbers will clean them up as they did with the original wild birds. You can only do so much with habitat. The last I heard the birds are doing well, this was from Lynn on this site who provides information on how things are going with the birds. Time will tell if they will make it, If I were a betting man I would say the hawk and owl numbers will stop any hope of the pheasants making it. I personally hope pheasants come back. PA has a lot of areas that a pheasants could flourish if not for avain predation.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Lynn thanks for the information it sounds good, You always give information that gives hope regarding the pheasants. You mention 900 birds were released here in three years. Any idea on how many total we may have now? I know they have a high rate of reproduction.
 

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Lynnappelman said:
Rather than see them consider dropping it, we think it makes more sense to take what they have learned from the data they have paid to collect and applying it to make the program a success.
I agree completely.
 

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I'm sure the Pgc biologists have a formula for calculating that but I don't know what it is. I know its not as high as we want it and only habitat improvement will make it grow.
 

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It is great to hear and the one thing I have commented on before is that don't think the gene pool is the problem. Earlier it was noted that momma has to know how to raise and teach the tricks of survival. Pen raised cockbirds that cross with wild hens would still produce birds that can survive.
If you have been to a pheasant farm where pen raised birds are in the pens all summer, you have seen birds that have hawks sitting around all day. They sit on the poles and posts and the birds under the nets don't fear them. When they are released the pen raised birds simply don't worry about hawks that sit in the trees or fly over. Wild hens teach to get out of town in a hurry when a hawk shows up. That is just one thing the wild hens bring to the table along with insects and wild berries etc, for food.
This is probably the biggest wild card in the pack of survival.
It is nice to hear the crowing counts growing each year and we can thank the wild mommas for that survivial instinct and learning to use the available habitat improvements.
 

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One thing that I don't understand is the pgc put more birds this year. It cost them $26 a bird(to raise them) according to their website. They could buy the same amount of birds for half or less and put the rest toward habitat.
 
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