Pheasant hunting is unfair sport

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To The Editor:
I recently looked out my workplace window to see two beautiful male ring-neck pheasants along with three females. I’d only seen this stunning bird in my Audubon book, so I took a moment to admire their sleek green feathers and markings.  Then it hit me, “Why are they in our parking lot?”

There was a reason I’d never seen a live pheasant before, because usually they are not seeking out a nesting area so close to people.   When I arrived the next morning, they were there again, this time attempting to fly to a treed area; I was within 15 feet of one male before he decided to jet back into the bushes.  When I mentioned their presence again to my co-workers, one revealed that she had discovered their origin, a local hunter had bought a number of the birds and released them to later hunt.

Regardless of your overall feelings towards hunting, I think community members would agree that this is not a “fair game.”  I was familiar with the concept of rearing birds to be hunted, but I did some research to better understand the process.  Using various fish and game websites, as well as the Wildlife Society Bulletin & Wildlife Harvest Magazine; I was able to collect the following information on pheasant rearing and released hunts.  There is no plan in releasing these pheasants to increase the wild population; these birds are raised and released only because people enjoy killing them.  Hunting theorist whose writing I reviewed seemed to want all hunters to integrate the philosophy “fair chase” into their sport. 

Jim Posewitz, a former Montana wildlife agency biologist, wrote in his book Beyond Fair Chase (Posewitz 1994), a definition of fair chase as a balance that “allows hunters to occasionally succeed while animals generally avoid being taken.”  This doesn’t seem likely when the birds that are released have no natural escape instincts, as they are raised in a pen on a farm. These farms where pheasants are raised also take part in less than justifiable kills in the name of sport. From 1979 to 1998, a pheasant farm in Minnesota killed 282 great horned owls under a permit allowing the killing of predators to protect “property.”

Chicks reared on pheasant farms endure unnatural environments, debeaking, and eventually shipment through the US mail.  Shipping can take as long as two days, and some breeders even add an extra four percent to each order to account for bird deaths in transit.   Once these birds are released for hunting, planned within hours or weeks, whether they are taken by man or the elements, they have little chance of surviving beyond the season.  I discovered one of the male pheasants at my job dead by the side of the road; hopefully his death was quick for his short- lived freedom. 

It sounds to me like some people want to play Pilgrim, but this is ultimately unfair game.  People who buy these birds might as well buy domestic chickens to release and hunt them; the challenge would be the same.

Robin Williams,
New Kingston