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Discussion Starter #1
A little background:

Our hunting cabin is partially surrounded by property private property open to public hunting that is held to conserve it. Most of that land is idle farmland. A wooded creek bottom surrounded by idle fields. Most of these fields are a mix of mostly golden rod, other misc weeds and some native grass with areas getting more woody with scrub pine, autumn olive, wild rose and briers. This property is perhaps a couple hundred acres of "pheasant like habitat" that is otherwise surrounded by mature forestland that wouldn't support pheasants. There are a couple of clear cuts less than 5 years old that border these idle fields that may support winter cover for pheasants and the few wild grouse in the area like it. Although not directly next to this idle farnland, there is a small (300 yard strip of woods) separating the nature conservancy property from active farm land that does occasionally grow corn on it. This area is in south central PA and thus it will in all likelihood convert back to woods one day. But while it stays "somewhat pheasant like" in habitat, my father and I decided to stock 30 pheasants on this property to hunt this year. We stocked 20 hens and 10 cock birds.

Before we stocked our own birds this year, we had seen a handful of both cock and hen birds in the area. This intrigued us as we are at least 10 miles from the nearest SGL where birds are stocked and a mountain separates that distance. I guess a few birds could funnel in over the years?

So on to my questions! Thanks for bearing with me...

Obviously, the described habitat is not ideal. Far too much mature woodland, too few ag crops, fractured habitat as in the pheasants have to utilized mature wooded areas to connect to other more "pheasant like habitats", perhaps other issues as well... But it's what I got to work with!

For those of you who are pheasant knowledgeable... With there being minimal ag crops available, what will these released birds feed on? We stocked then the day before the opener and are still flushing birds over 2 weeks later. We've only shot 6 cock birds and 4 hens. So only 1/3 of the stocked birds. I am sure hawks, owls, bobcats, etc have eaten their fair share, but some are still left... When I cut the crop open on the two birds I shot this past Friday it was full of unknown weed seeds and a few wild grapes. So it seems the birds have adapted to life in the wild. What can I expect? Will some of these birds take hold perhaps, or is this a pipe dream? Should I just realize this will be a sole stock and shoot situation?

Thanks for bearing with me through this long post, but I know there are some VERY knowledgeable folks on here who can give me some good answers...
 

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CJBS,

It is widely believed that todays game farm pheasants are not capable of producing a viable population of wild pheasants. Some birds can survive but not in numbers great enough to maintain or grow the population. The reason is behavioral and genetic. I would suggest your best use of released pheasants is hunting them shortly after release. The cost is too high to feed the local predator population. This lesson was learned with game farm turkeys years ago and turkeys have done very well through trap and transfer of wild birds and not game farm birds. I'm sure your habitat improvements will help the birds live longer and will also benefit other wildlife in the area.
 

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Your post involved available food and I didn't address that. It is believed that pheasants hardly ever starve to death. This can happen in extreme winter conditions for a prolonged time but it is not a common problem. We do put in food plots but the main reason is to reduce predation during feeding. We try to place food plots next to good escape cover (warm season grass or woody cover) so birds can safely move from the cover to the food. So even though food is rarely a problem, getting eaten while trying to get to it, is a problem. That is why we do put in artificial food plots for pheasants.
 

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CJBS2003
The limiting factor in Pa.is nesting cover,nesting cover,nesting cover!I can not stress that enough,like Lynn said pheasants rarely starve to death,even in severe winters stomach samples show that the birds were finding adequate food.Don't concern yourself with food plots they will find enough to eat.Instead you should put all your efforts into nesting habitat.If I were you,I would plant the land in nesting cover that would stand up to heavy winter snow.Some varities of switchgrass are excellent for this.Talk to as many local land owners as you can and see if they are willing to put some of their land into nesting cover.Don't worry about there not being Ag. crops in the area!
It is pretty much a given that pen raised birds won't create a wild population.They can survive just fine in good habitat,it is the hen not being able to raise young in the wild were the problem lies.There has been some success with using Bantam Hens to raise the chicks.Having said all of that,every once in a while a population does get going from pen raised birds,but odds are stacked against you.That is why the trap-n-transfer has been so successfull,wild birds are the way to go!Hopes this helps,fell free to ask anything.

Dan
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I realize it is a long shot. I don't own the property these pheasants are on. It is privately owned, but the owner allows others to hunt the land. However, the owner also doesn't want anything done to the land. They want it to revert back to how nature intended it. I suppose mature forest land. So for the time being my father and I are just trying to enjoy the overgrown field habitat and see how the pheasants do.

I guess I'll just have to face the fact that it's a long shot trying to establish some naturally breeding pheasants in our neck of PA and deal with mostly shooting pen raised birds. Thanks for your input...
 

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Well I am from Somerset Pa, and I was the habitat specialist for Pheasant forever for 3 1/2 years. The problem and agree with lynn and FLDBRED is the nesting cover and the placement of food plots. I know from a lot of what I did the biggest factor is the cover they will find the food. I did a lot of brush pile in SGL's and on private ground, I even notice stocked birds lasting from year to year even with the amount of predators that we have. I mean Somerset County is a lot like Montour County in the way of habitat but the biggest thing we have here is the wetlands. But I know you can't do much on the property as of right now but if you can ever do any habitat improvements brush piles along a good warm or cool season grass field is the best way to attack it. If you ever need any other info just pm and we can talk about food plots for them and a winter feeder brush pile that we did.
 

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Brian,

How did you build the brush piles? Edge cutting would also help make for better escape cover.
 

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Well edge cutting was one managing tactic. But edge cutting and brush piles go hand and hand. I just piled brush up into a square which had levels and was open in the middle and then just stacked up the brush like a dome. It is also very good practice for rabbits?
 
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