The Montana Fish, Wildlife & Park (FWP) Fish and Wildlife Commission has voted to approve a controversial new pheasant stocking operation for select public lands in the state. The vote occurred during the commission’s regular meeting in Helena this morning and capped months of heated debate between hunters and FWP officials about whether or not the state should be putting pen-raised roosters onto state-owned properties.
The program, which was mandated by an act of the Montana Legislature in the spring of 2021, aims to improve hunter recruitment, retention, and reactivation—an initiative known as R3—for Montana’s youth bird hunters. “Our license sales have shown a decline for upland bird hunting and migratory bird hunting,” said FWP Special Project Manager Deb O’Neil at the meeting. “That’s probably an area where we need to work on recruiting some hunters.”
FWP will spend $1 million—a 50/50 mix of state-generated conservation funds and Pittman-Robertson dollars—farming pheasants at the state prison in Deer Lodge, Montana. Once those pheasants reach maturity, they will be released on select Wildlife Management Areas immediately ahead of youth upland bird hunting seasons.
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