The state of Illinois may be broke (like most states after the 2008 economic meltdown) but you can still shoot tame pheasants that the state has hatched and raised expressly for your recreational pleasure at Illinois state parks this fall.
The state sponsored "controlled hunts" of pen-raised pheasants on state lands include sites for children ages 10 to 15. That will tear them away from their violent video games!
During the economic meltdown of 2008, Kelley Quinn, an Illinois Office of Management and Budget spokesperson, told the Pantagraph, "Raising pheasants at a financial loss, just so they can be killed, is not one of our top priorities when the state is facing a $750 million budget gap for FY08." But the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which administers the "pheasant propagation centers," went ahead and bred the pellet-ready pheasants anyway. Seventy-eight thousand of them. And it's still at it.
Disputes about the cost of the pheasant breed and shoot program date back to at least 1992 when state estimates revealed that the program was paying $14.33 per bird. Other states pay more than that.
But Department spokesperson Ann Mueller cautioned the public to not overact to the figures because they include salaries of people who mow picnic grounds or plant sunflowers in dove fields at "multiple-use" game propagation facilities. (Where doves are also hunted.) That does not mean, however, that the program, or birds, are self-sustaining, added Mueller.
"People are under the impression that the program pays for itself 100 percent, but it just plain doesn't," she said. In point of fact, Illinoisans pay for three state-run breeding facilities including the high tech 20,000 square foot Helfrich Wildlife Propagation Center on the southern edge of Edward R. Madigan State Park near Lincoln, IL where as many as 150,000 pheasants are hatched and raised in 12 acres of outdoor pens every year.
During the 2004-2005 season, the state of Illinois spent eight dollars per bird for 65,000 pheasants, according to Illinois DNR Advisory Board minutes. Officially, the $520,000 the pheasants cost should be funded by hunters' fees. But according to the State's own minutes, it isn't. Fees would have to be raised by two-thirds to cover "the costs of operating the wildlife propagation centers," say the minutes from the April 18, 2005 DNR board meeting at Rend Lake Resort.