The Pennsylvania Game Commission will offer public tours of its four game farms on Sunday, Sept. 30. Guided tours are scheduled to begin at noon and conclude by 3 p.m., rain or shine, at the game farms in Armstrong, Crawford and Lycoming (two farms) counties.
"The tours are designed to provide the public an opportunity to learn more about the Game Commission's game farms and our pheasant propagation program," said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. "While pheasants are not a native species to Pennsylvania, or the United States for that matter, the Game Commission's pheasant-stocking program continues to be a service in high demand, provides a tangible product for the license buyer, and adds diversity to today's hunting experience at a time when wild pheasant populations are low."
Tour stops will include hatcheries, brooder houses, and rearing, "grow-out" and over-wintering pens. Workshop discussions will focus on objectives in propagation management, including sportsmen's organizations participating in raising day-old chicks provided by the farms to increase local hunting opportunities and surplus day-old hen chicks that are sold to the public. Also, after registration and before taking the tour, visitors may view a brief DVD highlighting farm operations throughout the year.
When visitors arrive on tour dates, they will be asked to register before game farm personnel take them on a guided tour. In order to maintain biosecurity and minimize human contact with the birds, visitors will be asked to remain with tour groups.
Since budget cuts in 2005, the agency reduced the production of ring-necked pheasants from 200,000 birds to 100,000 birds annually at the Game Commission's game farms, and the agency temporarily closed one of the game farms.
"Thanks to recent revenues from Marcellus Shale-related gas leases on State Game Lands, the agency has increased its production level to distribute 200,000 birds for the 2012-13 hunting seasons, and we reopened the fourth game farm in 2010 to reach that production level," Roe said. "Also, in recent years, the Game Commission has invested in many long overdue game farm infrastructure improvements."
With the increase to 200,000 pheasants being stocked for the 2012-13 seasons, Roe said he hopes hunters have an even better pheasant hunting experience in the upcoming seasons.
"We're expecting hunters will see more pheasants in the field, because the Game Commission will be stocking pheasants during the first four weeks of the seasons, which is two weeks more than in recent years," Roe said. "Because of these improvements and expanded production, we encourage pheasant hunters, as well as other interested individuals, to participate in our public tours of the four game farms."
Goals for the pheasant propagation program are found in the agency's pheasant management plan, which can be viewed on the agency's website ( www.pgc.state.pa.us) by putting your cursor over "Hunt/Trap" in the menu bar at the top of the page, then clicking on "Hunting" and then choosing "Pheasant" from the "Small Game" listing.
Directions to the local game farms are as follows:
Loyalsock Game Farm: Lycoming County, 136 Game Farm Rd., Montoursville, Pa., 17754. The game farm is five miles north of Montoursville on Route 87, but the Route 973 bridge over the Loyalsock Creek still is out due to last year's flood. The game farm is 1.5 miles east of Warrensville on Route 973. Follow Warrensville Road 5.7 miles north to Warrensville from the Warrensville Road exit (Exit 23) of Interstate 80. Tour starts at the hatchery.
Northcentral Game Farm: Lycoming County, 1609 Proctor Rd., Williamsport, Pa., 17701. The game farm is 18 miles north of Montoursville off of Route 87. Tour starts at the hatchery of the Proctor (northern) farm.
Roe noted that information regarding pheasant stocking plans will be announced in September.