Opinion: Tamed pheasants, bad biology | Columnists

The Montana Fish and Game Commission is accepting comments on a provision of toxic HB 637 inflicted on Montana resident hunters and anglers during the last legislative session.

While this bill includes many reasons for consternation, the specific issue here is the authority to spend up to $1 million to breed pheasants and release them for hunters to shoot.

To be clear, I am not an anti-hunting animal rights activist. I grew up hunting wild game and have hunted pheasants in Montana for over 50 years. However, I consider this proposal ridiculous and offensive, as do all other experienced landbird hunters I know.

Biological studies overwhelmingly show a negligible survival rate among caged birds released into the wild. They lack both the genetics and the experience to evade predators. This proposal asks license buyers and taxpayers to shell out more than $1 million to feed the coyotes.

Pheasants have earned a reputation as America’s most popular game bird due to the challenge they provide in the field. Tough and cunning, they rarely fall easily, even to experienced hunters. None of us who like to hunt them see these traits as problems. Rather, they explain why we spend so much time roaming the Montana terrain with our beloved bird dogs and derive such satisfaction from serving a wild pheasant dinner to family and guests.

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Pen-reared birds do not present this challenge. Shooting them is more like shooting barnyard chickens than wild ringnecks.

The stated goal of this effort is to address the well-documented decline in the number of young hunters by providing them with opportunities in a growing effort called Recruitment, Retention, Reactivation (R3). These are undoubtedly laudable goals, but is this the best way to pursue them? This effort would logically begin by determining the real reasons why fewer young Montanans are getting into the field.

Hint: the problem is not the lack of opportunities to hunt tame pheasants. This occurs because young hunters are running out of places to hunt due to lack of access to public lands and denial of private land opportunities due to the leasing of outbreak outfitters and the sale of Montana land to vested interests. ultra-rich extra-states. R3’s efforts would be better directed towards solving these problems, which HB 637 only exacerbated.

Finally, do we really want to recruit young hunters by teaching them to ignore challenges and take ethical shortcuts? That’s not how I was taught when I was a kid.

I call on Montana hunters, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds to oppose this terrible idea.

Don Thomas of Lewistown writes about the outdoors for many national publications.

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