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BenBhoy

Releasing to boost wild population

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Hi,

I work as a shepherd on a family farm. 100% pasture land but bordered both side by arable. We have private woodland about 70ac. 

 How feasible would it be for me to release some adult pheasant into the woods & hope they'd survive & breed themselves? No gamekeeper but I control fox & crow. Ideally with minimal feeding...

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I have them breed here, left over from the neighbour's shoot. I keep on top of the foxes and put feed out for them but very few make it through to even juvenile stage. My best guess is left to there own devices they would quickly die out in a wild setting. They are not good news for adders, grass snakes or slow worms either so no great loss. 

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I've heard it said on many occasions that pheasants are pretty useless parents, which is one reason why stocks are replenished each season. 

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By adults I presume you mean ex-layers, then no, I don’t think you will be very successful by just putting a few adult birds down and doing some vermin control and minimal feeding, pheasants are not the smartest of birds.

But, I have seen small shoots were most of their birds were “wild” but they used to supplement this with about 100 poults each year, their average bag for the season was around 80-100 birds (all walked up) but they put a lot of effort into vermin control, feeding and making the ground/woods more appealing.

I guess if you can get them cheap enough you could try putting 50 ex-layers down and see what happens.

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1 hour ago, Scully said:

I've heard it said on many occasions that pheasants are pretty useless parents, which is one reason why stocks are replenished each season. 

this. 

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I have been told that raised pheasants are bad parents the first year but a lot better if they make it to a second breading season. No clue how true this is. 

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The GWCT is carrying out research into this at the moment aand has been for a while.

If u dome it the old fashioned way and got some eggs hatched under banties they'll have far more chance of success.

 

I must admit not read the more recent work the GWCT has done on it but the earlier findings where that reared birds don't really know how to scavage/hunt food properly and spend far too long trying to get their daily rations as ther ewhole life had feed on tap add lib in hoppers, while wild birds (or reared under banties) are used to chasing grubs bugs and beasties so seemingly find there daily rations easier or in better nick if food is scarce.

I think they were experimenting with putting small amounts of high protien food (mealworms) etc onto tightly strched material (like a drum skin) so when pheasants peck it vibrates and bounces meant to get them used to eating moving things. j

Just like th eold keepers trick of hanging dead stuff up in pen so the maggots drop of and birds feed away at them

 

If u already have pheasants ur probably better just to try and help them introducing more 'tame' birds will probably hinder their succesful breeding, or if u have  a shoot nearby u'll always get a few wandering in if ur habitat is right.

Not many shoots without a FT keeper who works very hard at habitat and vermin are lucky enough to shoot 100% returns without most of the birds wandering in from somewhere, even if miles away

Edited by scotslad

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Cheers for replies fellas.

There aren't any shoots nearby & therefore very few pheasant. 

Basically hoped to release, not shoot any for 2 years, and just see if they can maintain themselves. Apart from habitat management & pest control, how else could I boost chances? Don't want to feed as they'll become depending on it, not really wild. 

All we want is the chance of a shot eventually on a rough walk round, only a couple of us.

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The main issue here is the type of bird. 

Pheasants are not native to the uk and are predominantly from Asia. They are ground nesting birds and would normally chose wetlands to do so ( great protection against land predators) . 

In the uk ground nesting birds do not survive very well due to predator numbers hence the reason that the uk's ground nesting birds generally lay high numbers of eggs (the numbers game).

If you combine the fact that all pheasants in the uk are reared up in hatcheries and are semi domesticated it doesn't bode well for much chance of survival.

I have read somewhere that after the start of the season 6% will survive to the following year. I think this is down to luck and they will generally fall victim soon after. I have seen the odd breeding females with some chicks and sadly watched her clutch decrease day by day.

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We had a small shoot on a lot less ground, it was always the intention of turning it into a wild bird shoot in 10 year's. We only had 50 poults each year and had 4 or 5 small walked up day's. If you don't put in a bit of effort your not going to get much back. 50 bird's don't take a lot of looking after but we enjoyed the whole process. The farmer has sadly died two years ago and I can only shoot part of the farm  until the will is sorted so there's been no feeding since but the pheasants are still there and breed every year so I think we achieved what we set out to do

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9 hours ago, BenBhoy said:

Cheers for replies fellas.

There aren't any shoots nearby & therefore very few pheasant. 

Basically hoped to release, not shoot any for 2 years, and just see if they can maintain themselves. Apart from habitat management & pest control, how else could I boost chances? Don't want to feed as they'll become depending on it, not really wild. 

All we want is the chance of a shot eventually on a rough walk round, only a couple of us.

We buy around 150 exlayers which we keep in a pen for a couple of weeks until they feather up. We don’t have the time nor the inclination to do intensive keeping, but we do put feeders out and grow a bit of cover crop, and we shoot foxes whenever we need to. It is just a large ( 350 acres ) rough shoot and we get returns of about 40%, but we live in an area which has literally dozens of shoots in it, so didn’t feel comfortable putting out feeders without putting down at least a few birds. Word soon gets round. The closest one to us is over a river on one side and about a mile away on the other. We would be hard pushed to walk anywhere without being on someone’s shoot, but the entire Eden Valley benefits from each and every shoot in it.  

Try it, it’s great fun. 

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Agree with Scully, I run a similar shoot. 150 birds a year (just to do our bit) and lots of food. 
We get about a 40% yield. however we did tag our birds for 3 years and got less then 10% of our birds. Not a huge deal of work after set up and great casual fun with friends.

 

the real proof is that if you have all of these shoots dumping 1000s of birds every year then why isn't the British country side stuffed with pheasants in September November the following year? bearing in mind that most shoots are happy with a 40% return. over half the birds are left to breed. they are not suited to our eco systems here.

 

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A lot will depend on ur habitat, large grass fields aren't ideal, althou if ur fields are smaller with good thick hedges and the odd rough corner it becomes a far better babitat. Alos if ur 70acres of wood is 1 block or spread out and even the type of wood (commercial softwoods with no light/understory vegetation)

So it all depends on the ground u have and wot u can do with it.

 

If u went on either basc or gwct websites (read the stuff they done at Allerton as turned that into a wild bird shoot from nothing althou with a decent FT keeper) be loads of info wot u could do to increase habitat to encourage ur birds to stay and mibbee even breed.

Also depending wot grant/streardship scheme's ur in possibly u could do some babitat improvements and get paid for them, i think some schemes are now actually paying/encouraging farmers to put hoppers out and feed throu the 'hungry gap' time (sort of Jan till april) as loads of wild birds also benefit from pheasant feeders.

Or do u ever plant any fodder crops for winter grazing ur sheep? a field of turnips/kale/rap seems to attract for miles, also can be some good walked up shooting esp if u jkeep the sheep of till feb. A few well sited 'feed' strips could esay serve as mini drives if located well.

 

If u have no other shoots around it would probably be cheaper just to put some feeders out, won't take that many, in decent places, even if u feed something like barley the birds will still eat it but not be as keen on if u were feeding wheat/maize so be slightly less dependant. But esp if only a few hoppers birds will still do plenty scavaging.

 

If uwanted a 100% wid bird shoot, many smaller wild bird shoots will only shoot cocks, even try to release alll hens (or as many hens as possible) and just shoot the cocks.

But its probably a big ask in the modern envirobnent to have a pure wild bird shoot with a FT keeper and alot of habitat/vermin work

Ur probably as well just doing wot most folk do put a few down and a bit of habitat work/feeding/vermin and just ebjoy shooting a few birds with ur mates and not get too hung up onthem breeding

Edited by scotslad

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