Pheasant Hunting Tips and Strategies
ABOUT THIS HUB
Pheasant hunting has become an increasingly popular segment of hunting across the United States. This website is designed to be a place for both newcomers and old timers to come together to learn from one another. I will be adding my own advice on how to best hunt this fascinating bird based on my own experience. Feel free to leave comments with your own advice or suggestions regarding my advice. Good luck hunting!-Matt
CHOOSING A HUNTING LOCATION
Assuming you do not own your own section of private land complete with crops, sloughs and prairie, you probably need to choose from the public land options available. How do you choose a place to hunt? In some areas where birds are plentiful and hunters are few, this isn't too much of an issue. I've been to these places and it doesn't require much effort to find birds. Most of the time though, I hunt in a region that is close to a metropolitan area, over hunted, and low on birds. So, I choose my spots carefully. Below are some suggestions I have for choosing a hunting spot.
- Get A Map
A good map that displays the public recreational land for your state is essential. Many states will have the ability to find public hunting grounds online through their Department of Natural Resources or other department that manages the state's hunting and fishing activities. Although these maps are generally sufficient, I find the Topographic Atlases sold at Outdoor Sports Stores such as Cabela's easier and quicker to use. These maps help you locate public land you may not have even been aware of, and provide you with enough detail to find them. Many times have I used the regular state highway map thinking I knew exactly how to get to a spot only to waste time trying to figure out which little dirt road to take.
- Consider Distance
You need to strike a balance between a distance you can reasonably drive to and a good spot. If you are just starting out check to see if your local Natural Resource or Game and Fish Department has done any bird count surveys. Most states survey the pheasant populations annually. Use the information they publish to find areas of the state that are near you and have good populations of pheasants. Then, use your map to find a number of hunting grounds that are close enough for you to drive to, but preferably within the high bird count zones.
- Examine Covertypes and Surrounding Land
There are many qualities to consider. Some of the information about a section of land can be gathered using the topographic map, or by using the satellite images on Google Maps. It may be difficult to know for sure how good the cover is until you actually either scout it preseason or hunt it during season. The land should have plenty of very thick cover including such cover as tall prairie grasses, creek bottoms, or sloughs. Also note whether all cover sections are truly huntable. Reasons why a section might not be huntable are: it is too close to a building, highway, or livestock; it is unreachable due to a river or other natural barrier; it is within a city limit or restricted zone. Also keep track of the private lands that surround each public land tract. Choose places that have crops (preferably harvested) on the adjacent lands. You can guarantee pheasants will be there if there is a good combination of food and cover (as opposed to grazing lands). When you hunt, focus on those areas of cover that are closest to the neighboring croplands. Pheasants will eat in the morning and evening, and use the adjacent cover for hiding between meals.
- Other Factors to Consider When Choosing a Hunting Location: Weather Conditions, Hunting Party Size, and Popularity
Weather Conditions:Remember when the weather gets especially cold or snowy pheasants will go to the thickest cover available. Although it is more physically strenuous hunting the extremely thick cover, the birds will be more concentrated when the weather gets rough.
Hunting Party Size:Consider the size of the land you are hunting and whether or not you have enough hunters to adequately cover it. If you are hunting alone, you may want to concentrate on areas with small sloughs or river bottoms.
Popularity: Some hunting lands are extremely overrun with hunters. Some are crowed because they are close to a city, and some are crowed because they have the qualities of a good pheasant spot. I personally do better by avoiding these places. If you choose to hunt a popular spot, focus on those areas of the land that may be avoided by other hunters. Examples are areas that require extra energy to hunt (extremely thick cover) or areas more remote from the likely parking spot.
Blaze Orange Vests
PHEASANT HUNTING EQUIPMENT
Everybody has their own personal style, and their own preferences regarding hunting. I am going to do my best to give the newcomer an idea of what hunting equipment they should have to begin pheasant hunting, but these are really just suggestions. Here are my recommendations:
- Comfortable, weather appropriate clothing
- "Brush proof" pants
- Blaze orange vest and hat
- Waterproof, high quality hunting boots
- Shotgun with a modified choke tube
- Shotgun Shells (I suggest no lower than 4, no higher than 6)
Comfortable clothes are a must for pheasant hunting. You may end up walking several miles, and some of the time through heavy cover. Your clothes should allow free movement, but also be just warm enough to keep you comfortable. I also recommend buying a pair of pants made of material that is specifically designed to protect your legs against brush, thorns, and other rough vegetation (most hunting stores will have pants with the front legs made from this material). Finding the pheasants requires you being willing to walk through some tough cover, without these pants, you will be less willing to hunt some areas. Blaze orange material is necessary by law to hunt pheasants, but also a must for safe hunting. Remember Dick Cheney's mishap, use blaze orange. Many hunters overlook the need for a good pair of boots. A good pair of boots will keep your feet warm and dry while walking through wet ground, and help prevent injuries from unseen holes and uneven ground. Finally, most people use a modified choke and medium shot size because the range of the shots will generally vary from very close to far. I started out with high shot sizes when I was young and worked my way down to a preference of a number 4 as I got to be a better shot. I generally shoot lead shot, but use number 3 steel when I hunt Waterfowl Production Areas (steel shot required).
GENERAL HUNTING STRATEGIES
ssuming you've followed my advice about choosing a good location, you should be well on your way to finding some pheasants. Below are strategies for increasing your chances of flushing some birds. Your best bet is to wait until the crops surrounding the area you are hunting have been harvested. There will be fewer pheasants hanging out in the cover when there are standing crops available.
Walking the Cover
- A major error I see from new hunters is the tendency to walk too fast when hunting pheasants. If you walk too fast, you will likely walk by several pheasants that are hiding and hoping you will walk right on by. Walking slowly also gives your dog(s) enough time to fully work all the ground for scent.
Starting on one end of the cover, spread your hunters about 20-30 yards apart (the thicker the cover, the closer together). Typically, your aim is to push the pheasants toward a natural break in the cover such as a bare/picked field or a body of water. Roosters that are running ahead of you are more apt to fly once their cover ends. Generally, the best method is to walk in a zig zag pattern to help prevent pheasants from slipping through the space. If you are walking something that requires walking in a straight line, 20-30 feet between hunters is more appropriate.
- If there isn't a natural break in the cover, start where the cover is the lightest and work toward the thickest cover. Then work the thick cover very slowly and thoroughly. Those pheasants already in the thick cover will likely stay there to hide, and you may have pushed a few pheasants from the lighter cover into hiding in the thick stuff.
Using A Dog
The use of a dog cannot be understated when it comes to pheasant hunting. They have an ability to track and find a pheasant that is incomparable to a human. Only the young and dumb roosters flush in response to hunters walking by. Most will run or hide, and you will not see them. A dog can smell and force the hiding birds into the air. I prefer a pointer. My pointer has pointed hundreds of birds I would have walked by. When they point, it gives you a chance to walk right up to the bird and prepare for a shot. The other advantage is in finding a downed bird. Wounded birds will often run several hundred yards before succumbing to their wounds. Even a bird that is shot dead in the air can be difficult for a hunter to find without a dog.
- Try to hunt into the wind when using a dog, this will give them an advantage in finding the birds.
- Train your dog well, a dog that runs 100 yards ahead of you chasing a pheasant isn't helpful, and you may find your hunting partners become very annoyed at this.
- I recommend buying a vest specifically designed for protecting your dog's underbelly. Thorns and rough cover can tear their bellies up, and the blaze orange can help you see your dog better in the field.
For additional resources see Other Resources below.
Pheasant Hunting Books
Pheasant Hunting Resources
- Top 10 Pheasant Hunting Tips
This is a quick run down of the most effective strategies for hunting pheasants.
- Minnesota Hunting Blog
A hunting blog.
- 50 US State DNR Links for Departments of Natural Resources - Hunting, Fishing, Camping
List of links to all 50 states' official Web sites for Department of Natural Resources, Game Commissions, and Departments of Fish, Game & Parks for hunting, fishing and camping enthusiasts.
Due to environmental and health concerns nontoxic shot is increasingly being used instead of lead shot. What type of shot do you use?
Previous Poll Results
Is asking a landowner permission to hunt even worthwhile anymore?
- 60% Yes
- 40% No
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