Across a wide swath of the northern and western United States, hundreds of thousands of people consider ring-necked pheasants to be uniquely beautiful, challenging to hunt, and culturally emblematic of our agricultural landscapes. Pheasant hunters have been a core constituency for many state wildlife agencies for nearly a century, and their hunting license fees have deposited roughly $1 billion into agency budgets for conservation work over that time, in turn benefiting hundreds of wildlife species, reducing soil erosion, and improving water quality.
The impact of pheasant hunters remains strong today. Although the abundance of pheasants and pheasant hunters peaked in many states during the 1950s and 1960s, from 2006 to 2009 an average of nearly 1.1 million sportsmen pursued pheasants in 25 states, generating an estimated $502 million annually in economic activity.
Further, many pheasant hunters do not limit their spending on pheasants to licenses, equipment, and hunting trips. Pheasants Forever, Inc., a conservation organization started in 1982 by and for pheasant hunters, currently serves 145,000 members in over 700 local chapters. Since its inception PF has raised and spent $634 million improving habitat on 14.1 million acres (nearly 10% of those in 2015 alone), further leveraging the conservation efforts of the states for a variety of farmland wildlife.
Clearly, pheasants and hunters continue to be important drivers of conservation and commerce across much of the country, and the "pheasant states" place a high priority on maintaining those benefits. Natural resources in farm country stand to lose a lot if pheasant hunting continues to wane. (See national trends in hunter numbers for pheasants and other upland birds here.)