Ok, so not all of us are privy to hunting at fancy pheasant clubs. You know, where you buy a 10 bird card and then you wander around with a thousand other people looking for dizzy, farm raised birds?
Sure it’s fun for the beginner (and for the less ambitious) but there’s nothing like working for a beautiful wild rooster — at least in my book.
Truth be known, there are an awful lot of nice public places to get these beauties and although you won’t get the red carpet treatment, you’ll feel good at the end of the day pursuing a more challenging hunt.
I used to get a pass each year to a club that was essentially a group of farmers who leased out their land so that people could hunt there. It was dirt cheap (maybe $50) and you had your choice of many different farms to hunt. It was hit-and-miss but we did shoot quite a few birds. Look in your local areas for clubs such as these.
There are also many public wildlife areas that you can hunt on. Once you get the lay of the land, you can experiment with which spots work best. I always try and find areas that have clubs nearby or bordering these public areas. Many “club” birds get away and hide in public areas. The closer you can get to these private clubs, the better odds you have at shooting a bird someone else paid for.
Considering how dry it’s been (especially here in the west) consider hunting as close to water as you can. Not only will they be more apt to stay close to water sources when it’s dry and hot, wet areas are usually where you’ll find the thickest cover. You can bet they’re in there.
I prefer to hunt in the afternoon for a couple of reasons. First, most hunters are out there at the crack of dawn which puts a lot of pressure on the birds. They’ll usually head to thick cover and that’s where you want to focus your hunt on in the afternoon. Second, pheasants usually come out and eat in the late afternoon. Look along the seams for birds making their way back to cover after feeding.
If you have a few guys, one of the most effective ways to rouse a few birds is by doing a drive. Form a line where you’re spaced out at about 50 yards and work your way along. Someone is bound to flush a bird and then it’s a matter of who’s got the best shot. It’s also a lot of fun!
If you’re solo, you have to change your game plan. Try to be as stealthy as possible and you have a chance of sneaking up on birds. I always try to work my way upwind because it conceals my scents and sounds and it gives my dog an advantage of getting the pheasant’s scent. It also keeps me in a constant state of awareness which helps with all my other hunting escapades.
One of the best ways to successfully hunt pheasants is with a good dog. Although I have been out without her, I have to work a lot harder. Pheasants are very sneaky and sometimes I’ve stepped on them. A good dog is worth its weight in gold. If you don’t have one, find a friend that does.
The bottom line when hunting on public land is to experiment. Look around and imagine where the best cover is. Think like a pheasant—where would you hide? Where’s the water? Where can I escape? And, are there good areas to hide that hunters wouldn’t consider hunting? They’re definitely in there but remember that wild birds are very smart, unlike planted birds. It is a challenging way to improve your hunting all the way around when you take the time and hunt smart. You won’t be disappointed if you practice all your skills. Good luck!
Photo credit: Dreamstime