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Outdoors: Long-tail hunting season begins

Since the grouse, rabbit and squirrel season opened last Saturday, the third part of small game opens this Saturday (Oct. 26) for pheasants, often referred to as long-tails. A reference to the long tail feathers of a male cockbird.

If a cockbird can be flushed, the cackle and burst of feathers is exciting and when not anticipated, a bit startling for the hunter. But it’s a nice rush to experience.

When I was a preteen, I’d tag along with my uncle and grandfather when they hunted the cornfields and overgrown fields with multiflora rose in and around Whitehall and North Whitehall townships. We actually hunted the land where the Whitehall Mall is located and behind Lehigh Valley Cooperative Farm land where Spring Ridge Apartments is situated. We’d also hunt in my grandfather’s backyard in Ironton and beyond the Ironton School.

During those days, wild pheasants were somewhat abundant. But you had to do a lot of walking to find one or two. That’s not the case today. If it weren’t for the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) stocking them, pheasant hunting would be a mere memory of the past.

For veteran upland hunters, you may remember when the PGC would stock birds on Farm-Game, Forest-Game and Safety Zone program lands, and private lands whose owners allowed hunting. That too is gone. Now the PGC mainly stocks State Game and State Park lands as those programs were all merged under a portion of the Hunter Access Program (HAP).

According to Travis Lau, PGC Public Information Officer, “The HAP program is intended to maximize return on our propagation investment by maximizing harvest rates on stocked pheasants. Pheasant banding studies in 1998 and 2015 showed that average harvest rates for stocked pheasants on public land (45-50 percent) are consistently higher than those on private land (35-40 percent). Therefore, the agency has gradually moved away from private property stockings in favor of State Game Lands and other public lands (e.g. State Parks, Army Corps of Engineers properties etc.). In some limited circumstances, pheasants are still stocked on HAP properties that have demonstrated to have higher harvest rates than the average for private land. However, these remaining private land stockings constitute less than 5 percent of the total allocation.”

Insofar as private properties are concerned, I recall many moons ago my son and I asking a Farm-Game cooperator farmer in Lowhill Township to hunt his stocked land. He said we couldn’t because there were five hunters already hunting there. I subsequently learned that he wanted it for himself and family so no others could hunt there despite his agreement with the PGC.

So if you would like to find a place to hunt pheasants, go to the PGC’s website and click on Hunting, then the subtopic of Ring-Necked Pheasants then on Pheasant Allocation by List or Interactive Map. There you’ll see pheasant emojis of sorts on which to click that will give the game land number and allocation.

For Lehigh County’s SGL #205, stockings either took place or will take place on the following dates and bird numbers:

*Oct. 10-11, 450 birds;

*Oct. 22-25, 450;

*Oct. 29-Nov. 1, 460;

*Nov. 6-8, 390;

*Nov. 13-15, 390;

*Nov. 20-22, 390;

*Dec. 19-20, 320.

When there are two days, Lau explained that a SGL could get stocked on either date, but will be only one of two, not both. But on a larger scale, stockings could happen on both days, some locations on day 1 and other locations on day 2. He went on to say that the PGC attempts to stock as close to weekends as possible.

Map courtesy of the PGCTo learn where the PGC stocks pheasants, go to their website and find this map showing stocking sites.