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Hunting Pheasants in Arizona

Hunting Pheasants in Arizona - written by the Arizona Game and Fish Department

Several attempts have been made to establish these natives of Asia as resident game birds in Arizona, the most recent being in the late 1960s and early 1970s when the small white-winged race of the ring-necked pheasant found in Afghanistan was released in farmlands along the Gila, San Pedro, and other river valleys. A handsome, unmistakable bird, both sexes of this pheasant have long pointed tails, but it is the cocks or roosters that are unrivaled in their plumage. Possessing iridescent green heads offset by ear-tufts and a crimson-wattled cheek patch, the rooster also has a purplish chest, a soot-colored belly, distinctively dotted golden flanks, white wing epaulets, and a handsomely barred tail. Cocks usually weigh more than 2.5 pounds, while the beige- and sand-colored hens average between 1.5 and 2 pounds. Both sexes, but especially the males, typically give a cackle on being flushed that once heard is always remembered.

Pheasant Natural History

Pheasant populations persisting in Arizona are largely confined to agricultural areas having a relatively high humidity (e.g., citrus orchards in the Yuma and Mesa areas) or high enough in elevation to escape the desiccating heat of Sonoran Desert summers (e.g., the Virgin River and Verde River valleys). In such locations, a rooster will acquire a harem of from one to three hens, with mating commencing in early April. By mid-May most of the hens are nesting and of no further interest to him, and he will abandon his territorial patrols by the end of the month. The peak of hatching is during the last week of May, the most arid time in Arizona, which is one of the reasons why pheasants have not become established here. The youngsters are covered with yellow and brown down, striped in brown and black, and are remarkably self-sufficient. After only about two weeks, they are capable of flight and remain with the hen for only another two months or so before making their own way in the world. Pheasants roost on the ground or the low branches of trees, and the typical hiding cover is a patch of rank weeds, a stand of cattails, or a dense jungle of salt-cedars. Primary foods are cultivated greens and grains-alfalfa, barley sprouts, and kernels of maize, barley, and corn.

Pheasant Hunting and Trapping History

Pheasants have always been a specialty game bird in Arizona, and are only taken by a small cadre of hunters, who either obtain one of the limited hunt permits periodically available, hunt with falcons, or hunt with a bow and arrows. With the cessation of the Department's experimental pheasant program in 1973, hunter numbers have never exceeded 100 in any given year and the annual harvest excluding birds taken in game farms has been less than 50 birds.

Click here for more information on Pheasant hunting in Arizona.

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