Acre upon acre of tall grasses and weeds stretch before them, as the line of orange-clad hunters prepares to enter this prime upland ecosystem in pursuit of a most-elusive quarry: truly wild pheasants, a newly re-established population thriving amidst intensively-managed habitat found here.
The rolling valleys and fertile farmland of Montour and Northumberland Counties are home to the Central Susquehanna Valley Wild Pheasant Recovery Area (WPRA).
Fall 2020 marked the fourth year that a unique hunt opportunity had been offered to youth hunters to experience the excitement of hunting these wild pheasants under the guidance of skilled dog handlers and mentors who work together to make the day afield extra special. After an online application period in September, a random lottery selected the 26 lucky participants for the hunt.
On two consecutive Saturdays in early November, groups of thirteen youth hunters accompanied by a parents , guides, Pennsylvania Game Commission staff and Pheasants Forever volunteers gathered at the Montour Preserve in Danville for a pre-hunt orientation and safety training. The groups then headed out to hunt at the private farms nearby that are part of the Wild Pheasant Recovery Program.
The satisfaction of bagging a truly wild Ring-necked Pheasant in Pennsylvania brings out the wide smiles! Photo by Derek Stoner.
Over the course of four hours of hunting each day, over 130 pheasants were flushed on the three properties and the youth hunters bagged 13 roosters sporting long tails and gaudy colors. During the first three years of the Wild Pheasant Hunt, a total of 11 pheasants were harvested so the one year tally of 13 was a most pleasant surprise. A combination of good shooting and ideal hunting conditions helped to boost the success for the event, and enabled all participants to have quality shooting opportunities.