Pheasant Hunting Techniques & Tips
When Pheasant hunting in states the pheasant harvest is limited to cocks only. However, many liscnesed game farms across the nation allow mixed pair harvest of pheasants. If you are looking for a place to hunt pheasants be sure to check out our hunting preserves location page.
In addition to the 1000's of private hunting clubs across North America almost every state offers Public hunting areas as well. These puplic hunting areas often provide very good hunting late in the season after cold weather has concentrated the birds in heavy cover.
A wide variety of techniques can be used when hunting pheasants. This is probably one of the reason pheasant hunting appeals to so many people. A lone hunter can usually hunt field edges, fencerows and small weed patches. Many enjoy the solitude and easy pace of this type of hunting. Larger blocks of cover such as standing cornfields, cattail marshes, shelterbelts and large waterways may be difficult for one hunter to cover. Several hunters working together not only find more birds, but sharing the outdoor experience with good friends can be a very important part of the hunt. Larger hunting parties have found that they can bag more birds if they post "blockers" at the far end of the field, particularly if the birds seem prone to running or flushing wild. For many hunters, it just isn't a pheasant hunt unless you have a good bird dog along. A well-trained dog is a tremendous help in locating and retrieving crafty ring-necks. Selecting a good bird dog is again a matter of personal preference. English setters, Brittany spaniels, German shorthair/wirehair pointers and Labrador retrievers seem to be some of the most popular breeds among pheasant hunters. To learn more about huning dogs please visit our hunting dogs section
According to a DNR wildlife research biologist, pheasants follow a schedule as routine as your daily commute to and from work. Understanding the pheasant's daily movements can increase your odds of flushing a rooster.
"Pheasants start their day before sunrise at roost sites, usually in areas of short- to medium-height grass or weeds, where they spend the night." That's the word from Dick Kimmel, research biologist at the DNR Farmland Wildlife Research and Populations Station at Madelia. Kimmel says that at first light, pheasants head for roadsides or similar areas where they can find gravel or grit.
Pheasants usually begin feeding around 8 a.m. When shooting hours begin an hour later, the birds are still feeding, often in grain fields while cautiously making their way toward safe cover. "Look for the edges of picked cornfields," says Kimmel, who regularly hunts southwestern Minnesota with his English setter, Banjo.
By mid-morning, pheasants have left the fields for the densest, thickest cover they can find, such as a standing corn, federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) fields, brush patches, wetlands, or native grasses. Kimmel says the birds will "hunker down here for the day until late afternoon."
It's next to impossible for small hunting groups of two to three hunters to work large fields of standing corn. Pheasants often run to avoid predators, a response that frustrates dogs and hunters working corn, soybean, and alfalfa fields. Groups of two or three hunters usually have better success working grass fields, field edges, or fencerows. Other likely spots during midday are ditch banks and deep into marshes. Remember: The nastier the weather, the deeper into cover the pheasant will go.
But eventually, pheasants have to eat again. During the late afternoon, the birds move from their loafing spots back to the feeding areas. As in the morning, birds now are easier to spot from a distance and are more accessible to hunters. "That's why the first and last shooting hours are consistently the best times to hunt pheasants," Kimmel adds.
Once the bird has been bagged, it is essential to take good care of the meat, particularly if the weather is warm. Perhaps the best way is to dress and cool the meat immediately after the hunt. Almost any recipe calling for chicken will also work on pheasants.
During some years, Iowa hunters harvest as much as 80 percent of all the available roosters. In biological terms this is not excessive. Due to their polygamous breeding habits, only a small percentage of the males are actually needed for reproduction the following spring. Iowa's comparatively long; cock-only season is really quite conservative because the hen segment of the population is always protected from legal hunting losses. Shortening or closing a cocks-only pheasant season during population lows does not result in increased pheasant production in the future, because hens are protected and the lack of breeding males has never been a limiting factor for Iowa pheasants.
Sources- Iowa DNR & Minnesota DNR
Pheasant Hunting Tips
Quick Tips To Make Your Next Upland Hunting Trip A Success
Skip Opening Weekend- If you don't have your own land it is much easier to find hunting locations after opening weekend. Often land owners are either hunting the land themselves or are saving their land for friends and family to hunt on opening weekend. You will find that land owners are much more willing to let you hunt on the weeks following opening day and knocking on doors and asking permission can be a very effective way of finding new places to hunt. This is especially true in states that get a lot of hunters from out of the are such as South Dakota and Iowa.
Look For Good Cover- Look for dirty fence rows, irrigation ditches and sloughs next to harvested fields. Once the crops are down pheasants tend to congregate in this thick cover.
Hunt the hard to reach cover- Later in the pheasant season as snow covers the ground birds tend to head for thicker cover. Hunting cattails and other hard to reach thick cover can be very effective once the ground freezes and snow covers the ground.
Hunt WPA's- Waterfowl production areas are federally owned wetlands that typically have a lot of thick cover. WPA's can be very effective when the ground freezes.
Be Quite- Pheasants, especially the older ones associate car doors and talking with danger and will often flush or run out of a field ahead of a noisy hunting party. Working into the wind will help keep the pheasants from hearing you and will also be much easier for your dog to scent birds.
Use Cover Blockers- When hunting corn rows or cover that allows the birds to run for long distances it is often helpful to use a stander or blocker. The blocker sets up at the end of the row so as the pheasants are pushed towards the blocker they flush. This is also a good strategy for spooky pheasants that flush out of range of the hunters that are pushing them. When driving birds try and walk into the wind. When a pheasant flushes they prefer to go with the wind and this will put the driver in a better position for a good shot.
Look for the water- Pheasants need water to survive. If you are in a fairly dry area look for water holes. It is not uncommon to find pheasants in these areas.
No Dog? Try Stopping- If you don't have a dog walk very slowly and try stopping and standing still on a regular basis. This tactic will often make the pheasants nervous and cause them to flush.
Hunting alone? Trust Your Dog- If you don't have enough hunters to effectively drive a large area follow your dog. Let the dog work the field and edges and follow along. Don't worry about staying in a straight line. Let the dog find the birds. I've seen a lot of hunters miss birds because they are more concerned about covering every inch of the field. Let your dog work out scent trails and watch your dog closely. After a while you will be able to recognize when your dog is on a bird "Birddy".