Tips for hunting pheasants
An acquaintance of mine, now in his 70s and a guy who hunts birds all over the continent, one time remarked that "you only get so many opportunities in a day's hunting to shoot a pheasant rooster. You can't squander them." We Americans, especiall...
An acquaintance of mine, now in his 70s and a guy who hunts birds all over the continent, one time remarked that "you only get so many opportunities in a day's hunting to shoot a pheasant rooster. You can't squander them."
We Americans, especially guys, have a tendency to believe that we were born with some God-given ability that makes us each a naturally great shot. The truth is, lots of hunters are mediocre wingshots who could use practice on clay birds before they go hunting.
Pheasant hunting by its very nature is a rough-and-tumble sort of hunting. You don't leisurely follow a pointing dog while wearing a tweed coat and tie. You wear Redwings or Russell Birdshooters, poplin pants and vest, a ball cap and you hustle to stay with the dogs. Up until I got into my 50s, I would sometimes jog behind a Labrador who was hot on a running rooster. Your Labradors may be trained to stop and wait for you to catch up; none of mine ever were. You kept up with them or the bird flushed out of range.
I can't emphasize enough the urgency of walking strategically, staying within range of the dog, keeping to the edge or even inside cover, as long as the cover isn't so thick or tall that it prevents you from shooting.
An old friend of mine who grew up in northeastern North Dakota and still lives in the state has been a hunting partner of mine on a number of occasions, and he drove me crazy when we hunted pheasants together. See, he has one speed - leisurely and casual - sort of like a golfer who has just hit the ball, he sticks his club in the bag and saunters over to the next hole. That's the way this guy hunted pheasants. No matter how "birdy" the dog got, he had only one speed. He was seldom in range of the dog, and only got shooting when we happened into spots that held lots of birds.
One season about 15 years ago we hunted in southeastern Montana in October, and at the Medicine Lake opener on a federal refuge in northeastern Montana late in the season when there was snow on the ground. The hunting was not sensational by any means, but I managed to take 10 roosters while hunting over Labrador, Otis, during the two brief hunts. My partner got nothing. He was never near where the birds flushed!
One time the same guy and I hunted south of Richardton in western North Dakota. We were at the bottom of a draw that ran a quarter mile up into the hills. To properly hunt it we should have had a hunter on each side of the draw and one to swing around to block the head of the draw. I suggested to my partner that he block, and I would turn Otis loose once he got into position.
Well, I gave him what I thought was plenty of time to get up there. (He was out of sight the whole while.) I turned Otis loose, climbed up the right side of the draw. All the roosters went out at the head of the draw, 100 yards ahead of Otis and out of my range. My partner, I learned later, was still taking his time getting into position when the roosters came barreling through. I supposed I can take the blame for that one.
Another point to remember is that pheasant roosters have very good hearing, and particularly later in the season, they will foil your plans if you are noisy. Don't pull up to a slough, a field or a brushy creek, get out and slam the doors of your vehicle while you jabber loudly and noisily chamber shells. Most or all of the birds will exit the end of the field before you can get in range.
Don't make foolish mistakes like forgetting to chamber a shell. If you own a three-shot repeater, carry it with three shots in the gun not two. You might miss your first shot, connect on your second, or maybe miss both and be standing there with an empty gun when more roosters flush.
Above all, hustle, stay close to the dogs and the cover, hunt those roosters and be ready. There's nothing quite like it.