Why It Matters: State fish and wildlife agencies are instrumental in setting the frameworks that result in the successful conservation and management of a state’s fish, wildlife, and their habitats. Sportsmen and women (including hunters, anglers, recreational shooters, and trappers) have played a crucial role in funding conservation efforts in the United States for over 80 years. The American System of Conservation Funding, a “user pays – public benefits” structure in which those who consumptively use public resources pay for the privilege, and in some cases the right to do so, has served a shining beacon for the management of fish, wildlife, and their habitats. In the northeast, state agencies have been able to finance and facilitate stocked pheasant hunting opportunities as a result of the ASCF’s success, providing further credence to the effectiveness of this System.
- Over the past week, the 2022-2023 pheasant season has opened in several states, including Maine (September 24) and New Hampshire/New York (October 1), with numerous others within the region soon following suit (Massachusetts on October 15; Rhode Island on October 16; and Pennsylvania on October 22).
- In each of these states, the respective fish and wildlife agencies have been, and will often continue to, stock wildlife management areas with pheasants for sportsmen and women to pursue.
- Small game hunting (inclusive of upland game), which is experiencing an increasing trajectory in engagement, provides a multitude of economic and social benefits.
On September 24, Maine opened its 2022 pheasant hunting season, while last Friday marked the start of this year’s pheasant season in New Hampshire and certain regions of New York. Several other northeastern states, including Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania, will be in the same camp in the coming weeks. Pheasant hunting has been a popular pastime in America ever since the species was originally introduced to the continent in the late 1700s. Today, over 2 million sportsmen and women – most of which alongside their four-legged partners – pursue pheasant each year. In the northeast, state fish and wildlife agencies stock certain state-managed lands to provide opportunities for sportsmen and women to pursue pheasants.
For new sportsmen and women, upland hunting offers a variety of benefits and presents the engaging opportunity to experience time afield in an ideal learning environment. It is unique in that it is one of the few hunting pursuits in which you are encouraged to speak loudly and move freely, which in turn allows for increased communication and overall enhanced comradery. Likewise, upland hunting positions are often coordinated in a targeted approach that allows beginning hunters to quickly grasp the tactics involved in the pursuit. Therefore, upland hunting can be the ultimate opportunity for new sportsmen and women to learn alongside mentors in a more controlled, safe environment. Factor in the element of including hunting dogs, such as flushers, pointers, and/or setters, and it’s easy to see the benefits that upland hunting has on recruitment, retention, and reactivation efforts. Project Upland – an award-winning hunting media brand – conducted a survey of its readership to determine the members’ reasons for getting involved with hunting, and a resounding 75% answered “Yes” to the question “Would you say that dogs played a critical role in you becoming a hunter?” If there’s a way to get prospective hunters active and engaged, pheasant hunting is a great starting point.
In 2021, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation supported the creation of a pheasant and quail permit and the removal of seasonal bag limits in Massachusetts. This will generate increased funding for the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife’s conservation efforts, as well as increase opportunities for new hunters to learn and improve through hands-on experiences. In conjunction with excise taxes on sporting-related goods, revenue generated through license sales (including the pheasant and quail permit) will further benefit the state’s fish, wildlife, and habitat management through the American System of Conservation Funding.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?