Pheasant Release Program

Upland game bird hunting has a long-standing tradition in Alberta. Since the introduction of the Chinese ring-necked pheasant in the early 1900s, wild populations became established in select areas of southern Alberta. To accommodate the high demand for hunting opportunities, the Alberta government started a hatchery in 1945 and created the Provincial Pheasant Release Program, which saw thousands of hatchery-raised pheasants released onto the landscape each fall. In more recent years, the hatchery was privatized due to government cutbacks and was closed in 2013. However, a small group of keen hunters formed Upland Birds of Alberta and agreed to run the release program in 2013. ACA agreed to take over the release program beginning in2014, with the overall aim to provide greater hunting opportunity for all Albertans. We released 17,080 male pheasants for the fall hunting season in 2014 and increased this number to 25,000 in 2015. The total increased to 26,000 in both 2016 and 2017, then to 28,173 in 2018, and 28,610 in 2019. We developed a webpage that shows a map and directions to all the sites to make this hunting opportunity more accessible. We operated 42 release sites in the 2019 season. We worked with five Fish & Game clubs in southern Alberta who played a key role with the weekly release of pheasants (6,040 total) at 23 sites from Medicine Hat to Cardston. We also partnered with members of the Peace River Fish & Game club who collectively raised 760 male pheasants for release on the northwest sites. We contracted MacFarlane Pheasants to release birds three times per week at 17 sites and once a week at the Peace River sites (n = 21,810 pheasants). MacFarlane housed these birds in a holding facility near Strathmore. Birds were 3 released at more northern sites beginning September 1 for nine weeks, while releases at southern sites corresponded with the later opening day for pheasants beginning October 15. The program has been well received with positive feedback from hundreds of hunters annually.


Alberta Environment and Parks, Capital Power, Cardston Fish & Game Association, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Fort Macleod Fish & Game Association, 4-H Alberta, Lethbridge Fish & Game Association, MacFarlane Pheasants, Medicine Hat Fish & Game Association, Peace River Fish & Game Association, Picture Butte Fish & Game Association

Annual Summaries

Title Year Category
Pheasant Hunting Release Program 2014-2015 2
Pheasant Release Program 2015-2016 2
Pheasant Release Program 2016-2017 2
Pheasant Release Program 2017-2018 2
Pheasant Release Program 2018-2019 2
Pheasant Release Program 2019-2020 2
Pheasant Release Program 2020-2021 2