In 1882 the Willamette Valley of Oregon was the site of the first successful introduction of ring-necked pheasants in the United States. Those birds were transported by sea directly from China by Judge Owen Denny. The transplanted birds found perfect habitat and soon populations burgeoned into the tens of thousands.
The ringneck is a farmland species, heavily dependent on cereal grains and other seeds, and always thrives best where farming is the least efficient. In earlier times farming practices and the landscape were different than today and pheasants were more abundant. Farming techniques were relatively primitive, field sizes smaller, more areas were untilled and crops more diversified.
For years pheasants were a common by-product of most normal farming operations. Over the last several decades, however, pheasant numbers in Oregon have changed as agriculture has evolved into a more highly efficient industry. There is still fairly good pheasant hunting in eastern Oregon agricultural areas such as the Columbia Basin and farmlands along the lower Malheur River and Owyhee drainages. In addition, pheasants can still be found at lower population levels in most other agricultural areas of the state.
Even areas where pheasant numbers are limited can continue to provide hunting since only roosters may be legally taken. Pheasants are polygamous and relatively few roosters are required for breeding. In most areas there remains one rooster for every two to four hens after Oregon's hunting season, yet ratios as low as one to ten have been found adequate to sustain a population. Habitat remains the number one limiting factor for pheasants in Oregon.
Because pheasants are tied so closely to agriculture, the majority of hunting opportunity occurs on private lands. State wildlife areas, however, offer opportunities for hunting on public lands, and some federal refuges also provide pheasant hunting. Several cooperative programs between ODFW and private landowners also provide hunting access to private lands. More details on these areas can be found in the game bird regulations, as can information on a series of September youth hunts and several western Oregon areas where pheasants are released for hunting.
Distribution Map (jpg)