Hunting for pheasants is far from a complicated sport. For the most part, all you really need is an area with good habitat that will hold birds and to have enough gumption to get out and stretch your legs.
But somewhere in that simple process, the human element can interfere. Preconceptions multiplied by misconceptions can soon equal poor implementation of effective hunting strategies, and create frustration.
In my years of guiding, I’ve noticed a few areas where hunters could improve their methods and, in turn, enjoy more success while hunting pheasants. The next time you hit the field, you’ll now have the cerebral ammunition to give yourself the best opportunity to bag more birds.
GOOD DOG WORK
The first order of business is having good dogs and, beyond that, having them ready to go. Hunting dogs that also serve as family pets are fine. But they must be in far better than city-shape. You owe it to them to guarantee they are in proper hunting form prior to hitting the field.
Far too often clients arrive with their dogs inadequately conditioned to negotiate thick cover and track down wild birds. There is nothing worse than seeing our furry friends struggling to do what they love — finding, putting up, and then proudly retrieving a large cock pheasant for us to admire.
BE IN SHAPE
While on the shape subject, this applies to you as well. Building up your cardio training is one thing, but preparing your body for uneven terrain while pulling your legs through thick cover requires other types of conditioning. Working out on the treadmill at the local gym and concentrating on the pretty thing exercising near you is certainly helpful. But, you should really be taking in scenery of the outdoor type by getting out walking and working with your dog, preferably in areas that are off the beaten path and require a little endurance.
This also serves to further the bonding process with your pup and provide it with valuable fieldwork. In return for this quality time, the dog will reward you with the very best hunting skills it can muster. After all, for most of us, watching our loyal companions perform at peak level ranks as high or even higher than bag counts.
DRIVE THE FIELD
TO MORE EFFICIENTLY HUNT a large field, cut it in half and hunt each half as you would hunt a regular-size field. Have your blockers stand near the natural pinch points and heavy cover, as opposed to the ends of the fields. You’ll shoot more roosters by the end of the day with this strategy.
HAVE A BETTER GAME PLAN
Hunting pheasants is supposed to be relaxing, and it can be. But don’t become lackadaisical and make the mistake of taking the birds’ keen senses for granted. Be diligent about remaining sharp as you are stepping into the multi-faceted world that a wild bird lives in year-round. Never forget that you are playing by their rules.
Unfortunately, I see a similar scene play out time and time again each year as truck doors and tailgates slam, dog whistles blow and all the other silly things hunters do to inadvertently signal to all the critters in the area that danger is present. Don’t start your hunt off haphazardly and on the wrong, loudly placed foot. At the first indication of unnatural noise, the birds will not only be running for cover, but will also be flying away. You may not even realize it unless the opposite end of the field explodes with roosters. Regardless, if you begin your hunt like this, it will be largely over before it ever really starts.
To avoid these common mistakes, have a firm game plan in place before even entering the field. Be certain that it is completely understood by each and every one of your players, as one weak link negates all other planning. Immediately upon arriving in the field, everyone needs to get out of the vehicles as quickly as possible and take their respective places in one smooth and relatively quiet motion.
Everything you need, which isn’t much, should be ready to roll before arrival. Coats, vests, gloves and hats need to be on before you step out of the vehicle. Make that a habit, and I can guarantee your success rates will soar. Not being ready shows a shallow disrespect for not only the pheasants, but also for your hunting partners who are considerate enough be properly prepared. Believe me, you will not make yourself popular by having others continually wait for your entirely unnecessary pregame follies. Do yourself a favor — don’t be that guy.