You may have seen a ring-necked pheasant in your backwoods or farm fields. They are pretty common in North America and are quite eye-catching!
Roosters have a kaleidoscope of iridescent feathers: with coppery breasts, green heads, red faces, long tail feathers, and a distinctive white band around their necks. Did you know though that these birds are not native to North America? They actually come from the forests of Asia! So how did they even get here? The bird was originally introduced to our country when a United States General transported 60 pheasants from Shanghai to the forests of Oregon in 1881. Soon after, more states introduced this exotic bird to their landscapes, and hunters across the country began to harvest this species. Pheasant populations continued to boom until the mid-1900s when the growth of cities and agriculture removed most of their critical habitat from the landscape: grasslands. But thanks to the United States Department of Agriculture and other modern management programs, pheasants thrive across the country in grasslands managed and restored by these programs.
Pheasant hunting is in our heritage, and is an outdoor recreation that many people include in their lifestyles today. Huh, so what’s the big deal? Why are people so into game bird hunting? In general, hunting is a way we can protect our environment by keeping our wildlife populations at healthy levels. If there are too many of a species within a habitat, there may not be enough resources for all the animals to survive … leading to a population crash! Uh oh… but by hunting, we are able to monitor and maintain healthy wildlife populations within an ecosystem. And because pheasants are non-native species, they can cause negative impacts on other species. For example, studies have discovered that ring-necked pheasants are nest parasites of many ground-nesting birds. They will often deposit their eggs in other nests, which means their hatchlings will compete or push out other younglings, or even cause a nest to fail. But by hunting, we are able to keep pheasant populations in check and reduce their impacts on other native species.
Game bird hunting is also quite the adventure for families! For one, you get to spend time with human’s best friend … dogs! Since birds are small and can be difficult to spot in grassy, brushy, and woody areas, a dog can sniff out the birds and keep you on the right track. Pheasant hunting can also give you lots of cardio and exercise. To find the bird, your hunting party and dog will trek across several fields and hillsides to find them. But it’s also quite thrilling. A bird can flush up at any moment. And because birds are fast moving targets that can fly in the air, they provide a unique shooting challenge. But you know what is a great plus? When you harvest a pheasant, you are also gaining healthy, wild meat that is full of essential nutrients and proteins. Since wildlife are free-ranging, they eat their natural diet and are free of hormones and other chemicals that are poor to your health!
Ah, but most importantly, hunting gives us the opportunity to give back to Mother Nature! When hunters purchase their gear or hunting licenses, a portion of that money goes toward the research and management of wildlife and habitat across the country. This is due to the Pittman-Robertson Act, which requires that 11% of all money goes toward conservation. So when you are out in the field, you can feel good about protecting and conserving wildlife for your families and others in the future! What an incredible win-win.
Oh yeah … pheasant hunting is a good deal when you look at all the pluses. And young people around the country are beginning to experience it for themselves. Watch the video to discover how teens and families like yours can have a successful pheasant hunt. Ready to give it a whirl? Why don’t you take a hunter safety course (see link below) or click the “Learn More” button to prepare yourself for your pheasant hunting quest! And if your teacher downloads the lesson activity below, you will explore the wildlife and habitat managements that hunters help fund!