- GO WHERE THE BIRDS ARE: Pheasants will stick close to areas with food, water and plenty of cover from predators. Seek out locales with dense grass cover (CRP) as these places will have bugs, seeds and vegetation for eating, ideal cover for roosting and they may even hold puddles for drinking. When you can find these heavy grass areas within close proximity to ag fields and/or small ponds you increase your odds of success.
- AGAINST THE GRAIN: When hunting public land areas, hunters generally look for easy access points and tend to park in the same spot(s) as every other hunter. As a result, the direction of approach and hunt patterns are often the same. This kind of consistency educates birds and makes it easier for them to evade. Throw roosters off by finding a different access point and work in the opposite direction as everyone else.
- CONTROL THE VOLUME: Think like a deer hunter and keep your noise to a minimum. Slamming truck doors and tailgates, yelling at dogs and other excessive noise will put pheasants on high alert and may send them running for cover before your hunt ever starts. Hunt in an upwind direction when possible, it will help dogs with scenting and also cover your sound.
- USE A GOOD BIRD DOG: A canine hunting partner creates a huge advantage in the field. Not only will a good flushing dog be able to find and push pheasants out of heavy cover more effectively and expediently, but they are also a valuable tool when tracking down birds after the shot.
- SLOW DOWN: Work in a zig-zag pattern and make your way through the cover. Stopping occasionally is often enough to make nervous, tight sitting birds flush. Don’t push through the cover too quickly, pheasants will likely run and circle back around to safety.
- HUNT THE END OF DAY: Many pheasant hunters are in their trucks, parked at the field’s edge and ready to go before daylight and ready to pack it in by lunch time. Don’t disregard end of day hunting, though. The final hour before sunset is an excellent time to be afield. Not only will there be less pressure from other hunters, but this transitional time frame will also see pheasants moving from fields where they are feeding to grassy cover where they’ll roost for the night.
- THE LONG GAME: Opening weekend of pheasant season will have normally desolate dirt roads packed with trucks and fields lined with hunters. The birds may be fresh, but the pressure is at an all time high. Waiting it out and planning your hunt 2-3 weeks or more into the season, when the initial flurry of action tapers off, may be a smart move as hunters will have less competition for prime public land areas. Pheasant season in many states is lengthy at nearly 3 months long, so take advantage of all of it!
Don’t forget to take a kid or newbie along on your hunts this season! Upland hunting is a time honored tradition and a great way to introduce new blood to the lifestyle whether they are young, old or anywhere in between.