Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

Pheasant Hunting

Female pheasant hunter with her bird dog and pheasants

Pheasant hunting in New York has a long history and is highly valued by hunters throughout the state. The first hunting season for pheasants was designated in 1908 and DEC remains committed to providing recreational opportunity for hunters. Today, the wild pheasant population is at an all-time low attributed to habitat loss and land use changes. More information can be found in the 2010 Pheasant Management Plan (PDF).

Despite the decline in wild pheasant abundance, hunters can still enjoy days afield pursuing state-stocked pheasants that have been raised at the Richard E. Reynolds game farm in Ithaca. Annually, over 30,000 adult pheasants are released just prior to and during the fall pheasant hunting season.

The goal of the pheasant propagation program is not to restore wild pheasant populations, but to provide upland game bird hunting opportunity. Releases occur across the state on over 200 public lands and private lands that are open to public hunting. We strive to maintain pheasant hunting opportunity in all regions of the state.

DEC has developed an interactive map detailing state and private land release sites.

DEC's pheasant propagation program is able to provide opportunity throughout the state thanks to the willingness of many private landowners and other state, county, and towns that allow hunters to access their lands. Please respect the land and any special rules on public and private pheasant release sites. For additional information on stocking sites please contact your regional wildlife office or by e-mailing subject line Pheasant Release Sites.

Where to Find Pheasants

  • Most pheasant hunting takes place in open agricultural fields associated with grain farming or on abandoned farmland covered in aster, goldenrod, and other early successional plants.
  • Abandoned farmlands make great release sites for stocking game farm-reared pheasants.
  • Pheasants are not a woodland species. They prefer to roost, and forage in grassland areas among rows of corn, wheat, oats, and an occasional cattail marsh used for winter cover.

View an interactive map showing pheasant stocking locations in New York State.

Helpful Tips

  • You must possess a hunting license to hunt pheasants. Thoroughly read the Department's Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide to become familiar with pheasant hunting regulations.
  • Do your pre-season scouting and planning. Don't wait until opening day to decide where you want to hunt. Review the listof areas stocked with state-reared pheasants.
  • Ask permission from landowners to hunt. Common courtesy and respecting the land will ensure you have a place to hunt next year.
  • Successful hunters employ trained bird dogs to help them locate pheasants and retrieve downed game.
  • Get yourself and your dog in good physical condition for a safe and enjoyable hunting season.
  • Respect other hunters' space. Don't crowd. Share the hunting areas and the opportunity to harvest a bird.
Young girl with her hunting dogs

Youth Pheasant Hunt

Pheasant hunting was one of the first hunting experiences for many of today's adult hunters, and this two-day hunt will help maintain this traditional introduction to hunting. The excitement of a cackling rooster bursting out of the grassy cover will be an encounter a new hunter won't soon forget! Less crowded hunting conditions, experienced adult hunters and dog handlers, and mild weather combine to provide an exceptional upland hunting experience for junior hunters.

The season dates and bag limits for the Youth Hunt can be found on the Pheasant Hunting Season page or in the New York Hunting and Trapping Guide. Daily bag limits for the Youth Hunt are the same as during the regular season in upstate New York, but on Long Island the youth hunt bag limit is two birds per day. Youth hunters (ages 12-15) must possess a hunting license and must be accompanied by a licensed adult hunter. Only junior hunters are allowed to possess a firearm or harvest birds during the Youth Pheasant Hunt.

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


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.

Adult Pheasant Release Program (APRP)

ring necked pheasant adult release

Careful coordination and timely delivery is essential
to the health of the birds and success of the program.

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.

Cooperative Day-Old Pheasant Chick Program (DOCP)

pheasant chick shipment

Approximately 40,000 day-old chicks are hatched
and distributed to cooperators in the DOCP.

The DEC's Day-Old Pheasant Chick Program began over 100 years ago as a way for surplus pheasant eggs from state game farms to be utilized and distributed to farmers to place under broody hens. Since then, the program has continued to grow and develop into what it is today. 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 program provides educational opportunities while supplementing the landscape to increase fall hunting success. Pheasant chicks are available at no cost to participants who are able to provide a brooding facility, a covered outdoor rearing pen, and an adequate release site that allows pheasant hunting access. Participating in raising and releasing pheasants is a great way to get youth involved in the outdoors while supporting New York's longstanding tradition of pheasant hunting.

The Day-Old Pheasant Chick Program Guide (PDF) is designed to provide rearing and release guidance for individuals receiving day-old pheasant chicks from DEC. If you are interested in raising pheasants on your own and not in cooperation with the Day-Old Pheasant Chick Program please visit the Special Licenses webpage for more information on obtaining a domestic game bird breeders license. Key points about the program:

  • The DEC distributes 30,000 or more day-old chicks annually.
  • Anyone can apply to participate in the Day-old Pheasant Chick Program.
  • Participants must have the appropriate brooding facility and outdoor rearing pen.
  • Release sites must be open to public pheasant hunting.
  • Birds may not to be released on private shooting preserves.
  • Applications for chicks must be submitted by March 25th.
  • Participants should become familiar with the Day-old Pheasant Chick Program guide.
  • Day-old pheasant chicks are provided to participants in April, May, or June.
  • Pheasants must be released at eight weeks of age or older, but no later than the end of the pheasant hunting season.
  • Pheasants provided to participants may not be bought, sold or traded.
  • Habitat improvement projects on release sites are encouraged.

To participate in the day-old pheasant chick program, please complete the following application: Day-Old Pheasant Chick Application (leaves DEC website). The application period is from January 1st to March 25th annually. After submission, you may be contacted with further questions or to be notified of an approved or denied application. Please be sure to include a copy of the landowner consent form for releasing pheasants with your application. If you cannot attach a scanned file or photo of the Landowner Consent Form (PDF) with the application it may be mailed to Attn: Reynolds Game Farm, 81 Game Farm Rd, Ithaca NY 14850. This form must be attached/received to be eligible to participate. All pheasant chicks are provided by the Reynolds Game Farm in Ithaca and staff from the Game Farm will contact approved applicants to arrange delivery accommodations approximately 3-5 weeks in advance of receiving your chicks. If you encounter any problems with the online application, please contact your regional wildlife office for assistance.

If you have questions or would like more information about program participation or pheasant rearing, e-mail us, or contact the Reynolds Game Farm (607-273-2768).

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

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.