2023 Pheasant Season Is Back

Pheasant hunters in New York can rejoice as the fall 2023 season is back on track. An outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza wiped out nearly 7,000 pheasants—the state’s entire breeder flock—at Reynolds Game Farm in Ithaca earlier this year, casting doubt on the possibility of a pheasant season. However, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has just announced that the fall 2023 pheasant season will proceed as planned.

To ensure hunting opportunities, the DEC will acquire ring-necked pheasants from a commercial hatchery. These pheasants will supplement fall upland bird hunting opportunities throughout the state. Over the coming weeks, Reynolds Game Farm will receive both young (8-12 weeks) and adult birds, which will be raised until they are ready for stocking at more than 100 locations across New York.

Stocking Priorities

Reynolds Game Farm has been distributing tens of thousands of pheasants statewide since 1927. Without the stocked birds from the farm, public pheasant hunting opportunities would not exist in New York. The farm follows rigorous biosecurity protocols, including fencing and overhead netting to prevent large birds from accessing the pen. Regular disease surveillance is also conducted to ensure the health of the flock.

The DEC remains committed to protecting the flock and will continue to follow existing HPAI (highly pathogenic avian influenza) protocols. Pheasant hunting is one of the most popular small game hunting activities in New York, with thousands of hunters harvesting over 50,000 pheasants statewide each year, according to the DEC.

Avian Virus

While HPAI primarily affects birds, the current outbreak has had a severe impact on both commercial and wild bird populations. The outbreak, which began in 2021, has affected over 800 flocks in 47 states, totaling nearly 60 million birds, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Compared to past outbreaks, this one has been ten times more devastating to wild birds, including waterfowl and raptors.

The current outbreak has also had implications for public health. Near the start of the outbreak, nine bald eagles in New York succumbed to the virus. Since then, 307 cases of HPAI in wild birds have been detected across the state, including Tompkins County. However, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that the risk to the general public from the current H5N1 outbreak is considered low.

The Future of Disease Spread

While the outbreak poses minimal risk to humans, it is crucial to monitor and address the spread of avian influenza to protect both bird species and public health. The DEC’s efforts to resume the pheasant season demonstrate their commitment to wildlife conservation and the preservation of cherished hunting traditions. Hunters and outdoor enthusiasts can now look forward to enjoying the fall 2023 pheasant season in New York.

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