Pheasant hunting is a popular form of upland game hunting, and hunters can find a place to hunt them at Fish and Game's Wildlife Management Areas. The Department is stocking thousands of rooster pheasants at the following areas during the hunting season:
- Southwest Region: Fort Boise, Payette, Montour, and C.J. Strike WMAs.
- Magic Valley: Niagara Springs WMA.
- Southeast Region: Sterling WMA.
- Upper Snake: Market Lake, Mud Lake and Cartier Slough WMAs.
Hunters should note that on July 1, 2016, the age requirement for a WMA pheasant permit changed to 18. Besides a valid Idaho hunting license, hunters 18-years old and older must purchase a $23.75 WMA pheasant permit to hunt those birds. Permits are available anywhere licenses and tags are sold. Each permit allows a hunter to take two pheasants per day and up to six pheasants per permit. Multiple permits may be purchased.
For more information about stocking, including how many are stocked in each location, go to Fish and Game's website and look under the Hunting tab for "Game Species Information" and click on “Pheasant-Stocking Program on WMAs”. Direct link is here: https://idfg.idaho.gov/hunt/upland-game/wma-pheasant-stocking.
Pheasant hunting at WMAs is popular, which means they can get congested at times. To maintain safety, All upland game bird/animal hunters are required to wear visible hunter orange (minimum size 36 square inches) above the waist during pheasant season when hunting on WMAs where pheasants are stocked. A hunter orange hat meets this requirement.
Idaho's wild pheasant population is a fraction of what it was decades ago as habitat has been lost to development or changes to agricultural practices. The stocking program is popular with hunters, but often misunderstood, here's a Q&A about the program:
How much does it cost? Fish and Game will spend about $268,000 to have pheasants released on those nine WMAs. Last year, it received about $144,500 from the sale of WMA permits. Fish and Game does not expect to break even on the program.
"This is Fish and Game providing continued pheasant hunting opportunity," said Jeff Knetter, upland game and migratory bird coordinator.
It costs about $17 for each pheasant stocked, and the price of the permit has not been increased since 2006, so WMA pheasant hunters get a good bargain. The WMAs and pheasant stocking are also intended to provide youth and novices with an easily accessible and inexpensive hunting opportunity.
How often are pheasants stocked? About twice a week in most locations. Unlike fish stocking, Fish and Game does not publicize which day pheasants will be released, but typically it tries to spread the stocking out so birds are available during the week and for the weekend. Stocking schedules are sometimes altered due to weather, driving conditions and other factors.
When can they be hunted? Pheasant hunting on WMAs where birds are stocked begins daily at 10 a.m. during the pheasant season. That allows time for other hunting activities to occur, such as waterfowl hunting earlier in the morning. It also allows the birds to be stocked before hunting starts for the day, but that doesn't always occur. If pheasants are being stocked during hunting hours, hunters should be safe, respectful and ethical. Do not follow the stocking truck or shoot near it. Although Fish and Game does not publicize the stocking dates or times, in the smart-phone era, word travels fast when it happens.
Do they all get shot? No. Surveys have shown about 75 percent of the pheasants released are harvested by hunters. While pen-raised birds can be naive when they are first stocked, those that survive a few days wise up quickly and can be a challenging quarry.