Date: Sunday, June 01, 2008
Craig Barr and Randy Gradizzi no longer have time for hunting. They are too busy volunteering at the Fox Township Sportsmen's Club raising pheasant chicks for their Youth Hunting Area. This is only the second year for raising birds and they are already doubling the size of their operation with a second 50'x150' pen. Veolia has been an amazing supporter, donating the fence and netting for the new pen as well as offering the use of some of their land for habitat planting and youth hunting. Gravel from the Buhler family helps cut down on the mud. Volunteers will install electricity and running water to make these pens the ideal spot for 350 Manchurian and Blue Black pheasant roosters and hens to reach maturity by this fall.
Craig and Randy are masters of gathering kids together to learn about wildlife and caring for our environment. They placed pheasant eggs is the Queen of the World, St. Marys' and Ridgway's Middle Schools. The kids cared for the eggs and hatch a reasonable percentage. They already have plans for next year to hatch more chicks while incorporating the miracle of life into the class room studies.
Three hundred and twenty-one more day-old chicks arrived at the Fox Township pens last Friday. The chicks must first be taught to drink and peck at the food. They will gain about an ounce a day and will have wing feathers in a short time. A controlled environment in the coupe will keep them warm for the first 5 weeks before they are released to the 2 outdoor pens. This fall, the birds will be released in the 350+ acres of Youth Hunting Area to be used by kids with junior hunting licenses, ages 12-17 years old. The land use is donated by Veolia.
More than just the pheasants and kids are benefiting. Local farmers, the Volmers, and the local Pheasant Forever Chapter 630 along with Craig and Randy, have spread out plantings of over 30 acres of food and cover for the birds, as well as all wildlife. Corn, sorghum, oats, buckwheat, millet and sunflower will provide food and cover in just a few weeks. There were at least 30 birds that held over from last fall's stocking just in this area.
There commitment is to the long term success of the project. St. Marys Middle School kids arrived after school hours at the reclaimed strip mine this spring to plant over 5000 trees donated by the PA State Game Commission. There was a wide variety of pine, spruce, elder berry, Indian current, winter berry, hawthorn, saw tooth oak, common elder, crab apple and more.
Is it really worth all the time and effort? Cost of a one day old pheasant chick - $.94 each. Cost of pen, fence and food to grow chick to hens and roosters - volunteers and donations The look of a kids face when the first birds flushes - priceless!
Feel the need to get involved? Pheasants Forever meeting dates for 2008 will be as follows: Odd month meetings will be held on the second Monday of each month. Even month meetings will be held on the second Sunday of each month. Therefore, the June 2008 meeting will be held Sunday, June 8, 2008, 7PM at the Capital City fire hall on Front Street in Ridgway, PA.