Where else would you rather be?
Well, the pheasant season opened yesterday. Did you go pheasant hunting? If so, did you see or shoot any pheasants?
Of course, whether you shot any pheasants or not this year, you had to fork up $26.90 to buy the Game Commission’s new pheasant hunting permit for the dubious privilege of chasing a handful of stocked pheasants at an even smaller handful of locations where those birds now are stocked. Was it worth that extra 27 bucks for a hunting opportunity we used to get as part of our general hunting license and in addition to all the other permits and fees the Game Commission loves to impose on us for a relatively few days afield each season?
I used to love hunting pheasants and was fortunate to have experienced the waning years of wild pheasants in southeastern Pennsylvania during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Even then, the incredible numbers of wild pheasants in that region had started to decrease.
Although I was amazed at the number of birds and the remarkable hunting the resource they produced, I can also remember veteran hunters lamenting the decline in the quality of the hunting compared to just a few years before.
By the late 1980s, wild pheasants had all but disappeared throughout their former range in Pennsylvania. Sad, but true, and the Game Commission didn’t do much other than stand by and watch it happen. Their response to the disappearance of wild pheasants was “loss of habitat.” I didn’t buy that lame explanation back then, and I still don’t buy it now.
Sure, we have lost a certain percentage of farmland and other rural areas that once supported wild pheasants to development and those losses certainly had an impact on wild pheasants. We certainly didn’t lose all our pheasant habitat, however, not even close. But we did lose all our wild pheasants, so things just don’t add up on that front.
For the last 10 years or so, I have enjoyed a couple of days of pheasant hunting each season with one of my best friends who owns a pair of wonderful pointing dogs. We hunt public land for stocked birds, and most days, we find a few birds thanks to his well-trained dogs. I always looked forward to those days to spend time outdoors with a good friend and to watch the dogs work their magic. But I haven’t bought a pheasant permit this year, and I am not yet sure I will do so.
We rarely hunt the opening day, and I had a fishing trip scheduled yesterday anyway. My friend also changed jobs recently, so we’ll need to compare schedules to see what, if any, days we might be able to hunt together this fall.
It’s not about the money, although the $26.90 for the pheasant permit is more than the cost of an adult hunting license. That is obscene. I bought my senior lifetime hunting license last season, which including pheasant hunting. Now they want me to buy their shiny new pheasant permit. That is shamefully wrong.
Even worse is the fact that a new “hunting license” or increase in the cost of any hunting licenses must be approved by the state legislature. How can the Game Commission get way with creating a “permit” out of thin air anytime they feel like it? Where is the oversight on this? And if you think this latest tax being levied on the hunters of Pennsylvania is a good idea, here are a few things to consider.
Our current pheasant “program” here in Pennsylvania is little more than a joke being perpetrated on the hunters of this state. Last year, the Game Commission essentially gutted the program. First, they quit hatching pheasants and are now buying pheasant chicks from private hatcheries.
Next, they closed two of their four pheasant farms and laid off 14 employees. That maneuver was expected to save about $1.7 million, bringing the cost of the pheasant farms down to $3 million a year. Finally, they have reduced the number of birds to be stocked from 200,000 to 170,000.
The Game Commission estimates their new pheasant permit will generate about $1.5 million a year. That means they would need to sell 60,000 permits, which represents an immediate decrease of 40 percent in the number of pheasant hunters.
So much for promoting hunter retention and recruitment. And at best, that revenue would only pay for half of the pheasant program, so even if you choose not to buy a pheasant permit, you will still be helping to pay for stocked pheasants that you are no longer allowed to hunt. Still think the pheasant permit is a swell idea?
I dearly love hunting pheasants, but common sense would indicate the prudent thing to do would be shut down the pitiful pheasant stocking program entirely.
Or better yet, restructure the operations of the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
In reference to the opening of pheasant season,Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans recently said, “Wading through waist-high grass on a frosty, sun-splashed autumn morning, and bringing a shotgun to the shoulder as a cackling rooster erupts from cover, mere steps away, is an experience like none other.”
That is true, Director Burhans. Too bad most Pennsylvania hunters will never get to enjoy that special hunting experience for themselves.