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Pheasant Propagation Program Overview

Pheasant hunting has a long tradition as one the most popular small game hunting activities in New York. DEC's Small Game Hunter Survey indicates that about 23,000 hunters harvest over 50,000 pheasants statewide, while spending almost 106,000 days afield annually.

DEC has a long history of propagating pheasants to help meet the demand for pheasant hunting opportunity. Wild populations of this introduced species have reached all-time lows. Without propagation and release programs by DEC and private entities, pheasant hunting opportunities would not exist in New York State.

Pheasant Propagation Programs

Successful youth pheasant hunter
Successful hunter during a
Youth Pheasant Hunt

Adult Pheasant Release Program (APRP)

The APRP annually provides about 30,000 adult pheasants (18 weeks and older) for several fall stocking programs. Most are used for stocking more than 100 DEC-managed public hunting lands before and during the regular pheasant hunting season and two preseason youth pheasant hunt weekends. Check out our map of all pheasant stocking locations in NYS. Other uses of the birds include special sponsored pheasant hunts for youth, people with disabilities, women, and novice hunters. If you or your club would like to receive pheasants for use in a DEC-approved sponsored hunt, print or download a Sponsored Pheasant Hunt application (PDF) or contact your regional wildlife office.

The second goal of New York's pheasant management plan (PDF) is to provide artificially propagated pheasants to increase recreational hunting opportunities and promote participation in shooting sports throughout the state. Part of achieving this goal is designing a relatively simple, equitable process for allocating birds among DEC regions that maximizes the opportunity for hunters to use this resource. To do this, staff in the Bureau of Wildlife identified key criteria related to the department's capabilities and resources, hunter use and activity, and habitat and access constraints.

Captive-reared pheasants from Reynolds Game Farm are allocated to eight DEC regions based on the following criteria:

  • Logistical Concerns - the number of birds and sites each region can stock based on available staff and resources. This was a qualitative assessment conducted by the regional biologist and the game farm manager, and ranged from "severe" to "no logistical concerns".
  • Pheasant Hunting Effort - the percent of pheasant hunting effort expended in each region. This was based on hunting effort data from the Small Game Hunter Survey for four physiographic zones - North (Regions 5 and 6), Southeast (Regions 3 and 4), West (Regions 7, 8, and 9), New York City/Long Island (Region 1). Effort data were allocated to each DEC region within the four zones based on the number of hunting license holders within a region (licensed hunters from New York City were apportioned to Regions 1, 3, and 4).
  • Pheasant Hunters - the percent of pheasant hunters in each region. This was based on hunting participation data from the Small Game Hunter Survey for four physiographic zones - North (Regions 5 and 6), Southeast (Regions 3 and 4), West (Regions 7, 8, and 9), New York City/Long Island (Region 1). Hunting participation data were allocated to each DEC region within the four zones based on the number of hunting license holders within a region (licensed hunters from New York City were apportioned to Regions 1, 3, and 4).
  • Availability of Small Game Hunting Alternatives - Due to habitat and/or access constraints some regions have fewer small game hunting alternatives than others. Thus, stocked pheasants play a larger role in overall small game hunting opportunities. A qualitative assessment was conducted by each regional biologist to evaluate their region on a spectrum from "very good" to "poor" in terms of small game hunting alternatives. Regions with relatively few alternatives were compensated with a higher score for this criterion.
  • "Useful" Season Length - In an effort to maximize the potential use of released birds, we calculated the percent of the pheasant season that was most likely to be used by the majority of pheasant hunters within a region. "Useful" season length was calculated by taking the number of days to start of the regular big game season divided by the total pheasant season length (in days).
  • Regional Release Sites - the percent of pheasant release sites within a region relative to all release sites statewide. Release sites had to be separated by at least 0.5 miles to be considered independent.
  • Regional Pheasant Habitat - the percent of pheasant habitat within a region relative to total pheasant habitat statewide (measured in square miles). "Pheasant habitat" includes grassland, pasture, hayfields, row crops, and emergent herbaceous wetlands.
Ring-necked Pheasant Chicks
Approximately 40,000 day-old chicks are hatched
and distributed to cooperators in the DOCP.

Cooperative Day-old Pheasant Chick Program (DOCP)

More than 160 applications, including thirty Cooperative Extension 4-H programs, are approved for participation in the DOCP annually. Many more clubs, individuals and youth participate in the raising and distribution of the pheasants. Each cooperator receives a specified number of day-old chicks to raise and release at no additional expense to DEC. All birds must be released on lands open for public hunting. Program participants include 4-H youth, sportsmen clubs and county federations, landowners, NYS Department of Corrections, and other individuals. DOCP cooperators allow pheasant hunting on hundreds of sites and thousands of acres of privately owned lands.

The Day-Old Pheasant Chick Program Guide and application for this program are available on the DEC website or from a regional wildlife office.

Richard E. Reynolds Game Farm

DEC's Bureau of Wildlife owns and operates the Richard E. Reynolds Game Farm, the state's only pheasant production facility, located near Ithaca, New York. In operation since 1927, the Reynolds Game Farm propagates and distributes pheasants statewide for two distinct programs. All pheasants distributed through DEC programs are released on land open to the public for pheasant hunting. Private landowners allow pheasant hunting on thousands of acres through these programs.

The annual operating budget for the game farm is approximately $750,000, including pheasant propagation, program administration, annual facility maintenance, and most of the pheasant distribution costs. The game farm currently has four full-time permanent staff. It employs up to ten additional temporary staff during the peak of propagation activities (March-November). The game farm has served as a central location for various other DEC programs such as Chronic Wasting Disease testing and the River Otter Restoration Project. Over the years, the game farm has participated and supported numerous research projects with Cornell University either directly or indirectly. The game farm conference room remains a prime meeting place for DEC teams from across the state.

Shipping and Delivery

Ring-necked Pheasant Release Site
Careful coordination and timely delivery is essential
to the health of the birds and success of the program.

Adult pheasants are distributed prior to and during the fall pheasant hunting season from late September to mid November, including birds allocated for special sponsored hunts. Scheduling for all programs is coordinated with eight DEC regional offices and cooperators to ensure an orderly delivery of birds that accommodates staff schedules while ensuring that birds arrive in excellent condition for release.

Purpose of Propagation Program

The pheasant propagation program reaches thousands of New Yorker's by providing hunting and viewing opportunities. First and foremost, it provides sportsmen and sportswomen the opportunity to enjoy an open field hunting experience that is gradually disappearing with changing land use patterns across the state. The program provides access to thousands of acres of old fields and cropland where hunters can go afield and hunt pheasants. Many hunters across the state own and care for hunting dogs that are specially trained to hunt pheasants or other game birds of open fields.

The cooperator programs also provide a means for youth and adults to learn about the husbandry and natural history of pheasants, with an incentive to expand areas open for public hunting and to improve habitat for grassland wildlife species. Youth and adults spend hours caring for and releasing birds propagated through the state cooperator programs. The state propagation program provides quality disease-free birds and outstanding customer service to its constituents.