A colorful male ring-necked pheasant — rooster is the correct term — showed up recently near a home in northeast Faulkner County.
These birds don’t live in the wild in Arkansas, but some are kept as pets and also as attractions at private shooting preserves. Likely, the Faulkner County bird escaped from a pen somewhere nearby and decided to roam around. It is highly unlikely that it migrated from South Dakota or Iowa or some other pheasant area to our north.
Pheasants in the wild have been attempted in Arkansas back through the years without success.
Arkansas critter history is rich with the comebacks of game animals but not nearly as much with game birds.
The restoration of Arkansas deer began about 1924, and look at what we have today — deer numbering at least 1 million according to wildlife biologists and a new record for deer checked by hunters in the making for this season.
Bears were restored to Arkansas. Elk were restored to Arkansas. Squirrels have done extremely well on their own. Beavers were restored to Arkansas, and many people regret that. Alligators were restored to Arkansas, and some people are critical of that.
Among game birds, we have the restoration of Canada geese, and this has been beyond successful to the point of problems.
Turkeys were restored, thrived then declined in recent years. A turnaround may be taking place now.
Quail have declined, mainly due to habitat loss, and they have not rebounded despite fairly intensive restoration efforts.
Ruffed grouse restockings were begun in the Ozark Mountains about the same time as the Canada goose and elk restorations began. But the grouse seedings did not succeed. None have been seen or heard for a number of years now.
Pheasants, not native anywhere in the United States, were imported into several parts of the country and became numerous and desired hunting targets in the upper Midwest and as close to Arkansas as Kansas and northern Missouri. Pheasant numbers have declined sharply in Missouri in the past decade.
When the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission was formed in 1915, pheasants became a talking point. The agency built a quail and pheasant farm near Rogers in 1922 and produced quite a number of birds.
These were moved to the wild in a number of locations but with extremely limited success. When the Great Depression began in late 1929, funds dried up for the Game and Fish Commission, and the quail and pheasant farm was closed.
Since then, a few private attempts at stocking pheasants have failed. One limited attempt by Game and Fish in the early 1980s also failed. This was in Arkansas County.
According to Wikipedia, "Pheasant hunting is popular in much of the U.S, especially in the Great Plains states where a mix of farmland and native grasslands create ideal habitat. South Dakota alone has an annual harvest of over a million birds a year by over 150,000 hunters. Much of the North American hunting is done by groups of hunters with flushing dogs such as Labrador retrievers and springer spaniels walking through fields and shooting the birds as they take flight. There are also many hunters who use pointers such as English setters or German shorthairs to find and hold pheasants for hunters to flush and shoot."
(Joe Mosby is the retired news editor of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Arkansas’ best known outdoor writer. His work is distributed by the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.)