DEC Accepting Pheasant Release Program Applications

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New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Erin M. Crotty today announced that the agency is accepting applications for two cooperative programs designed to enhance opportunities for pheasant hunting in New York State.

The Day-Old Pheasant Chick Program and the Young Pheasant Release Program provide pheasant hunting opportunities through a partnership of DEC, sportsmen and sportswomen, 4-H youth, and landowners who are interested in rearing and releasing pheasants.

In 2002, DEC distributed 68,000 day-old pheasant chicks and 13,920 young pheasants to qualified applicants through the two programs. Last year, 328 applicants received and released young pheasants. DEC hopes to approve an additional 42 applicants this year.

Applications for either program must be filed with a DEC regional wildlife manager by Saturday, March 15, 2003.

The Day-Old Pheasant Chick Program began in the early 1900s. At that time, pheasant eggs and chicks were distributed to farmers and rural youth. Today, day-old chicks are available at no cost to participants who are able to provide a brooding facility, a covered outdoor rearing pen, and an adequate release site. Applicants who meet these program requirements will receive the day-old chicks in April, May, or June.

Daily care is necessary to monitor the health of the birds and ensure there is adequate feed and water for the rapidly growing chicks. The pheasants can be released after August 1, 2003, and no later than the end of the pheasant hunting season, which varies for different regions of the State. All release sites must be approved in advance by DEC and must be open for public hunting.

The Young Pheasant Release Program was developed in 1992 with assistance from organized sportsmen and sportswomen. It is funded through license fees charged to hunters, trappers and anglers. The program provides a more traditional hunting experience for wilder birds and the opportunity for hands-on involvement in improving pheasant hunting opportunities.

The program distributes young pheasants (five-to-eight weeks old) free-of-charge to cooperators in June and July. These summer months are ideal for releasing young pheasants because of stable weather conditions, ample food, and exceptional cover that allows the birds to escape from predators.

Each release site approved by DEC is eligible to receive 40 young pheasants. A pen, built by the cooperator, is used to gently release the birds into their new environment. Feed and water are provided for two weeks, slowly acclimating the birds to life on their own. No pheasants can be released on private shooting preserves and all release sites must provide public pheasant hunting opportunities.

Individuals interested in these programs should contact their nearest DEC regional office for applications and additional information.

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