By Greg Price: CNJ Sports Writer
Bill Bradford of Placitas has hunted pheasant for almost 50 years.
Bradford said it should be a strong pheasant season in New Mexico, since cold weather has been sparse.
“I have bird dogs and I enjoy watching them work,” Bradford said. “And certainly (pheasants) are good to eat.”
The four-day New Mexico pheasant season opens today with community-sponsored hunts in Pleasant Hill and Arch.
The one-month season in West Texas started Dec. 1.
The Pleasant Hill Fire Department has organized the hunt since 1984 as a fund-raiser for the department. The hunt for the prized chicken-sized game birds takes place on 25,000 acres of donated land.
The department charges a $75 permit fee, which gives hunters free reign along the designated hunting grounds, Pleasant Hill Chief Ted Richardson said.
“Most of our hunters are repeat hunters,” Richardson said, “and we just hope that we can provide them with a top-quality experience.”
He said the pheasant hunt draws hunters from as far as France.
About 100 hunters were registered by Tuesday, Richardson said. The limit is 150.
“The community has been very good to us,” Richardson said. “And it helps us so we don’t have to go to the community and ask for money for the department.”
In southern Roosevelt County, Arch’s hunt includes the release of 800 birds in addition to the wild population, according to Roosevelt County Commissioner David Sanders.
“They’ll fly right in front you,” Sanders said of the pheasants, “and you might step on one before you know it.”
Currently, Sanders said about 40 people have signed up for the hunt.
Arch’s hunt will benefit the town’s senior citizen programs, according to New Mexico Game Warden Wes Robertson.
Robertson said the areas around Clovis and Portales have the largest population of pheasant in the state. Hunters are allowed three roosters (males) per day.
Robertson said his responsibilities this weekend include verifying hunting licenses, checking limits and keeping an eye on the hunters.
The pheasant is not native to the area.
According to the Web site pheasantsforever.com, the first successful introduction of the birds was in 1881 when Judge Owen Nickerson Denny, U.S. consul to China, shipped 30 Chinese ringnecks to his home in Oregon.
They were later released in 40 of the 50 states. Pheasants are approximately the size of a small chicken. The males are brightly colored and referred to as roosters. They emit a loud cackling sound when startled. The females are called hens and are brown or gray in color.
The Chinese Ringneck Pheasant
Weight: Males 41-46 ounces; females 31-34 ounces
Length: 30-36 inches
Flight speed: 38-48 mph
Habitat: Grasslands, wetlands, and brushy areas interspersed with agriculture.
Foods: Waste grains and weed seeds
Life expectancy: 70% annual mortality rate; 2-3% of population lives to age 3
Mating: Polygamous; one male breeds many females
Nesting period: Peak April-June, range March-August
Nests: Usually shallow, scratched-out depression in the ground lined with grass or leaves
Clutch size: 11 eggs for first nests
Incubation: 23 days
Young: Precoccial; leave nest immediately; can make short flights at 12-14 days
Number broods per year: 1; will renest up to 4 times
Nest success: Average 43%. Fledge: hen and brood separate 8-11 weeks post-hatch
Recruitment: Average 3.7 young/hen
Migration: None; year-round resident
Source: Iowa Department of Natural Resources