Late Season Pheasant Hunting
Most casual pheasant hunters head to the fields for opening weekend and maybe one or two more outings. If they’re lucky they shoot a few uneducated birds, put them in the freezer, and call it a season. There is nothing wrong with that, but there is a certain satisfaction to late season hunting those casual pheasant hunters will never experience.
By the time late season comes around in most states the crops are off the fields and there might even be some snow on the ground. With most of their cover gone, pheasants are more concentrated in the heavy stuff. Those swamps you couldn’t trudge through in October are now frozen over. Walking is much easier and the cattails are pheasant magnets.
But it’s not all milk & honey. The dumbest birds are vacuum sealed or have already been simmered in oil. Remaining pheasants have most likely dodged a few dogs, shotguns, and coyotes already. Slamming doors and yelling across fields isn’t going to get it done this time of year. Hand signals should be the norm for communicating with your dog and your hunting partners.
Paying attention to the wind is even more important now than during the early season. Walking into the wind obviously helps your dog work scent more efficiently. He can catch a bird’s scent and close in on the source. But it will also help make your approach quieter.
Working cover slowly is another key component to successful late season pheasant hunting. Veteran birds have learned that most hunters walk at a steady pace and will often shuffle right by a hunkered down pheasant. If your dog looks birdy let him work for a while. I’ve often had pheasants literally flush from right under my feet after they become unnerved from me standing for so long. Even if your dog isn’t working scent, it is a good idea to stop once in a while just to see if a bird might be holding tight in your area.
Before putting your shotgun in the truck it may be a good idea to change out the chokes. Yes, you have to prepare for a bird or two that may flush at your feet. But the vast majority of late season flushes occur further from the hunter than an early season bird. Pull the improved cylinders out and go with a modified or even a full choke for very wary pheasants.
For those of you who are addicted to chasing upland birds, don’t hang up your chaps in November. Many states have seasons open well into January. Unlike deer or duck hunting, you spend most of the day moving so getting cold usually isn’t a problem unless it is really frigid out there. And that’s just another reason late season pheasant hunting may be the best season of all.