By Renny macKay, Wyoming Game & Fish(CHEYENNE) – This season, 45 years after the inaugural hunt, the Downar Bird Farm released 5,760 birds, and 1,856 hunters harvested 3,170 pheasants. While both number of birds and hunters increased in the last four and a half decades, some things remain the same–it’s still a lot of fun to hunt for during the Springer Special, and pheasant remains a delicious food source.
“The Springer Special Pheasant Hunt is popular because it’s the first opportunity of the season to hunt pheasants and stocked birds result in successful hunts, especially for young hunters,” said Robin Kepple, Laramie region information and education specialist. “It’s also a tradition with many adult hunters, and they often share stories of their first hunt at Springer when they were children. It’s also not uncommon to see three generations hunting together during the Springer hunt.”
For each day of the special Springer hunt, Game and Fish stocks 360 birds–three birds for each of the allowed 120 hunters permitted daily. Some hunters harvest their special-season limit of three birds in one day, while others space out their take over the season by walking-on to hunt during days the hunt isn’t full. And some don’t harvest at all. For 2018, the average harvest was 1.7 birds per hunter. Which, is also the same average from the original 1973 hunt. The long-term average is two birds.
This year, Game and Fish continued their focus on recruiting youth. The Springer hunt designates two days during the season as youth-only. To encourage participation, on the Oct. 20 youth day, Game and Fish, along with the local Rooster Boosters, welcomed families with trap shooting, hunting dog demos and a cookout.
“Pheasant hunting is a good way to get kids into hunting. Youth day is a perfect day to step into the sport with friends and family, and we want to make it fun,” said Kepple.
The Springer hunt is one of many managed pheasant hunts throughout Wyoming, supported by the Game and Fish game bird farm program. In addition to the Downar Bird Farm, Game and Fish raises pheasants in Sheridan. Together, the farms stock approximately 31,000 pheasants on Game and Fish wildlife habitat management areas and walk-in areas specifically for hunting.
In 2014, people across the state provided their thoughts on the future of the game bird farm program. The department held 17 public meetings across the state and conducted a survey of hunters and the general public. This was to understand opinions about the opportunities the two bird farms and the stocking of pheasants provide to bird hunters. The survey results showed an overwhelming majority of hunters – 94 percent – were in favor of the game bird farms and the pheasant hunting resulting from stocked birds in areas open to the public. Many of the respondents were lifelong participants in the Springer special pheasant hunt.
Pheasant hunting season extends through December in most hunt areas; check the regulations for full season dates. Game and Fish continues to stock hunter management and walk-in hunting areas throughout the fall and winter. Check the stocking schedule to plan a hunt near you this year.