The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission on Thursday approved the release of up to 50,000 pen-raised pheasants annually onto wildlife management areas, adding a stipulation that wildlife managers report annually on costs and hunter feedback.
The 6-1 vote comes more than a year after the Legislature authorized spending up to $1 million each year in wildlife dollars to stand up and operate a pheasant rearing program at Montana State Prison. The inmate-run work program began raising pheasants for FWP to release as part of its hunter recruitment program. Officials will time releases before annual youth-only hunts each fall.
The program has seen a mix of reactions, with supporters including the agency advocating for more opportunities for young hunters, and assuring that safety protocols will prevent potential disease transmission. FWP has cited early success as at least one factor in young people choosing to continue hunting, and both upland and migratory bird license sales have declined.
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