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July 25, 2014
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Raising wild gamebirds; A lesson in caretaking

Hundreds of day-old pheasant chicks arrived at Sullivan County’s Cornell Cooperative Extension office from Reynolds Game Farm near Ithaca, NY early in May, where ag educator Michelle Lipari helped distribute them to 4H members and others who will raise them during the summer. The adults will be released in the fall in time for hunting season.
Contributed photos

By Jane Bollinger
June 4, 2014

SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY — This summer, Erin Denman, 14, a student in Tri-Valley Central School District, and Dustyn Kratz, 13, a student in Liberty Central School District, are among a select group of young people from 4H involved in raising wild pheasant chicks, which they will release into the wild this fall. This Cooperative Pheasant Chick Program goes back more than 100 years in New York State (NYS), and not only students, but also sportsmen’s and game hunting clubs participate, releasing the birds on their own property or in designated areas.

On May 6, Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE), Sullivan County received a shipment of hundreds of day-old pheasant chicks that were then distributed to local 4H club members and others interested in rearing pheasants, under a partnership program with state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). DEC has two interests in this project: repopulating areas with ring-necked pheasants (the wild pheasant population has declined more than 90% in NYS since the late 1960s), and supplying enough of these game birds for hunters.

All of the pheasants in this program are hatched at the Richard E. Reynolds Game Farm located near Ithaca, which this year will raise some 34,000 ring-necked pheasants to maturity at the farm, and provide more than 40,000 day-old chicks to be raised by volunteers statewide. “The program is paid for “100% through conservation fund money collected from hunting licenses,” Reynolds Game Farm Manager Jeff Smith pointed out.

According to Smith, the reason for the decline in pheasant population has been loss of habitat—forests reclaiming open fields, small family farms succumbing to the expansion of larger farming operations—and increased predator activity.

Smith talked about a primary goal of the pheasant program. “Pheasant hunting is a unique type of hunting because it relies on fairly well trained hunting dogs,” he said, adding that “There’s still a strong interest in hunting in open habitat with a well trained dog.”

For Erin Denman and her family—parents Kathy and Michael—in Grahamsville, this is the fourth year for raising pheasant chicks. (They also raise their own chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese.)