Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Pheasant Program Cover/Food Plot

I spent the weekend along with some helpers planting a 1/2 acre cover/food plot for The Pheasant Program. The Pheasant Program at the Police Center provides area children the opportunity to support the Department of Environmental Conservation's Pheasant-Rearing and Management Program. Area youth volunteer time in the raising of the pheasants; which are raised in large netting pens at Jamesville Corrections Facility. Adults and youth spend time preparing the netting pens, feeding and watering the newly hatched birds, the placing of blinders on the birds in July (to prevent them from fighting) and the release of the pheasants onto public lands from late August to October. Each trip to the pens (for feeding or blinders) or to the woods (to release the birds) is an exciting time for the children.

One of the biggest predators of the pheasants are hawks. The hawks perch on top of high trees or circle high in the sky over the fields where the pheasants often feed. Once the hawks spot a pheasant they swoop down and try to catch them. This year I thought I might try planting a half acre of corn near where some of the pheasants are released to see if the pheasants use it for food and cover. The tall corn stalks shield the pheasants from the sharp eyed hawks and offer the pheasants a food source. If I find the pheasants use the corn plot, I may plant more plots in release areas next year. An additional benefit is that I planted sweet corn rather than cow corn. Once the corn is ripe I will bring a group of kids up to pick some corn to bring home and we will fish in the pond while we are there (another fun outing).

The DEC's Pheasant rearing program was on Gov. David Patterson's chopping block. People often do not realize the amount of free labor and services (feed, gas for transporting the birds to release sites, etc.) which sustain programs such as the pheasant program. Nor, do they realize the positive impact it has on the folks (young and old) who participate in raising and releasing the birds (during the weekdays prisoners at the Correction Facility care for the birds). And I haven't even gotten to the sportsmen for whom the program is intended. Yes, many of the birds may end up in a hunters pot for dinner. However, others benefit from watching or listening to the pheasants even if they don't hunt them. I don't hunt the pheasants I release but I enjoy watching them in the fall from my bow stand when they sometimes walk or fly by. This Spring while turkey hunting I heard several pheasants cackle which is an indication a few have survived the hunters, hawks, coyotes and the winter.

I am thankful Gov. Patterson has allowed the program to continue. Should he again, consider cutting the program, I hope he takes a look at all the hard workers (who are not paid a penny from the State) who support and benefit from the program.

If you would like to join the group from the Police Center on one of our pheasant outings, contact us at 471-3257 and we will include you on our next time out.

Officer James K. Clarke

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