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Bill Tompkins was serving as Allegany County Sheriff in 2007 when he had an idea to expand the Inmate Work Program at the county jail he oversaw.
He envisioned a program that would have multiple benefits, both within the jail and on the outside. Inmates would raise the pheasants for release in the wild, and pheasant hunters would have the opportunity to pursue the birds reintroduced into an area that the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) had ceased stocking. The first ring-necked pheasants were obtained in 2008 and the Allegany County Pheasant Program was born.
The program has been running now for more than a decade and it is as strong as ever. Inmates at the jail continue the work of raising chicks and program coordinators continue to offer the public pheasant hunting opportunities.
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Working on the Allegany County Pheasant Program is an incentive for well-behaved, low-risk inmates to be able to go outside and do productive work. They also assist with releasing the pheasants prior to the hunting season every fall. The inmates care for the pheasants as they are raised and the Sheriff’s supervisory staff supervise those inmates that are allowed the work in the program.
The chicks are hatched on the DEC pheasant farm in Ithaca, New York, and delivered to the Allegany County Jail and Public Safety Facility at one day old. The program receives two batches of approximately 800 chicks from the DEC annually. The DEC does not charge the program for the chicks, but it is the program’s responsibility to provide feed.
Once delivered to the Inmate Work Program at the jail, the chicks are raised until they are ready for release. There is a brood house at the Allegany County Jail that the pheasant chicks live in for the first six weeks until they are then transferred to pens. Some of the structures used in the program were built by inmates and others were built by students in the BOCES Summer Youth Program.
The Allegany County Pheasant Program is an example of many community groups successfully interacting for a positive collaboration. In addition to the contributions of the DEC, the Allegany County Sheriff’s Department, the Inmate Work Program, BOCES, and the program board, there are many other groups that either contribute or benefit from this program. Landowners open their land for public hunting and conservation classes help with pheasant release. The educational aspect of the program works with volunteer organizations to enhance the understanding and appreciation of wildlife.
John Tucker is a board member and secretary of the Allegany County Pheasant Program, which is incorporated and established as a 501C3 not for profit organization.
“It has created an economic impact to the county as hunters from outside the area come to hunt,” he said. “I’m a hunter also and I am glad to see pheasants reintroduced to the area.”
Most of the original nine board members continue to manage the program. The Allegany County Pheasant Program is a separate program altogether from the DEC or the Allegany County Jail. It maintains a separate budget program and bank account. No County tax dollars are used for the pheasant program. The major expense of the program is for the feed. Funding is obtained from individual donations, donations from local Rod and Gun Clubs, grant funding from the Friends of the NRA Grant program, and an annual raffle.
Birds are released prior to the pheasant season in October. Release sites are noted on the organization’s website, alleganycountypheasantprogram.com, and all birds are released in Allegany County. The birds are released at locations available for the general public to hunt. The Allegany County Pheasant Program stresses that all applicable hunting requirements must be followed and for the public to please respect the privilege of pheasant hunting provided by the landowners that collaborate with the program.