Since the 1980’s pheasant harvest has declined, with a few exceptions during years of favorable spring weather. Habitat loss has been the key problem. In 1991, WDFW initiated a very aggressive habitat enhancement program to address this continual loss. Until these habitat enhancement efforts can be established on a broad scale, the release of pheasants will help supplement harvest and maintain hunter opportunity.
In 1997, the Legislature created the Eastern Washington Pheasant Enhancement Fund using a “surcharge” of $10 on eastern Washington pheasant hunters. Beginning in 1999 a simplified license system resulted in a single fee for small game hunters. The pheasant enhancement fund will be retained by dedicating a percentage of the small game license fees. It will be based on the number of eastern Washington pheasant hunters. The small game license is $38.00, it is $21.20 if purchased with any big game license, and kids under 16 years old pay $20.00, or $11.60 with a big game license.
The idea was to develop a dedicated funding source to improve pheasant hunting in eastern Washington. Most of the funds are used to buy rooster pheasants for release on lands that are open for public access. The balance of the money is available for habitat enhancement grants to private organizations, individuals, and state or federal agencies.
Each year thousands of pheasants will be released on public lands. Those release sites are shown on the maps in this brochure. Pheasants may also be released sporatcially on lands open under the Feel Free to Hunt Program. The idea behind the release of roosters in eastern Washington is to supplement the harvest. Releases will take place for the youth seasons on most of the sites in late September. We do not provide other release dates because we want to minimize crowding at the release sites and to promote the highest hunter ethics possible.
Habitat protection and enhancement continues to be the primary tool to maintain pheasant populations and hunting opportunity over the long term. WDFW invests up to $1 million each year on upland bird management and private lands access. The pheasant enhancement program provides for habitat enhancements.
To protect other wildlife species including waterfowl and raptors, nontoxic shot is required for all upland bird, dove and band-tailed pigeon hunting on all pheasant release sites statewide.