POCATELLO, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - Rick Gardner is an avid hunter, but he's avoided hunting pheasants for years.
“I haven’t hunted pheasants in so many years because our wild population is so low,” Gardner said.
When he started volunteering to help Idaho Fish and Game, he changed his mind. He's helping release rooster pheasants at the Sterling Wildlife Management Area (WMA) near Aberdeen.
“I had no idea that they released as many pheasants as they do on the WMA," Gardner said.
From the last week in September until the last week in November, Fish and Game releases pheasants at nine WMAsacross the state.
By the end of the season, 3,000 pheasants will be stocked in the Sterling WMA.
“We try to make sure the opportunity is spread out so there’s a chance everytime you come out to see a bird,” said Maria Pacioretty, a regional habitat biologist for Idaho Fish and Game.
But this program isn't just to encourage hunting. Some of the pheasants are banded with a small, metal bracelet with a phone number.
Hunters who harvest a bird with a band are encouraged to report it to Fish and Game to help with a study.
“This is going to help me figure out our stocking efficiency across the WMA and also give me some information as to hunt or harvest--their success--and hopefully get some really good information to help us plan our future seasons out here on the WMA,” Pacioretty said.
Through this study, Fish and Game will learn where the birds are hunted in relation to where they were released, how soon they were harvested after their release and how many are harvested.
“If there are areas we need to tweak and work on and adjust to help with hunter success and hunter congestion, this will help us figure that out,” Pacioretty said.
The 2019 stocking schedule for the Sterling WMA can be viewed here.