Pheasant Hunting Gear
One of the most rewarding aspects of pheasant hunting is that there isn’t a lot of gear. No scent protection, goofy battery powered contraptions, sprays, or decoys. It is just a hunter, a gun, and a contest of wits. Of course, there are few things that will make your hunt more successful and enjoyable. Here is a good list of must haves and add-ons for pheasant hunting.
The best way to avoid a potential citation is to know the rules. Ignorance is no defense. 99.9% of hunters are not going to willfully violate a game law. Most violations are mistakes and most of those mistakes are made because a hunter was unaware they were breaking a law. A conservation officer is obligated to uphold the law whether the violation was a mistake or not. Having regulations with you and reading them before going hunting is a big step in preventing a citation. Common pheasant hunting citations are hunting after hours and over-bagging. Study hunting hours and bag limits before going to the field.
Maps can help you pinpoint good hunting areas long before the season starts. You can access hunting maps through most state wildlife agency websites. Even if you’re hunting private land, a look at an aerial map from sites such as Google Earth can give you an edge. Plat books are also handy. Knowing a landowner’s name and phone number can be a big step in getting private land access.
Most pheasant hunters prefer a 12 gauge shotgun but many use a 16 or 20 gauge, especially youth hunters and ladies. The important thing is to be comfortable shooting your gun. A lightweight over-under is a classic pheasant gun but most hunters get started with a pump. An over-under allows you two shots without cycling a shell but that pump gives you one more shell to fire. Of course, an autoloader offers the best of both worlds with three shells and no pumping required. However, if you plan to walk a lot fields an autoloader’s weight may tire you out. If you can get your hands on an over-under, it is probably the best choice. By the time most hunters get to a third shot the bird is out of range anyway. If a Browning Citori is out of your price range, check out Stoeger. They offer a nice, entry level over-under that is in most beginner’s budgets.
Pheasants are hearty birds, especially game farm birds. I often see new hunters come into the field with target loads that just aren’t going to get the job done on most pheasants. High brass shells loaded with 4 or 5 shot is best. Don’t be afraid to spend a little extra on quality shells. The daily bag limit in most states is two or three birds. Even if you limit out four or five days during the season, you probably won’t use an entire box. With all the money invested in guns, gas, and everything else, an extra $5 or $10 on better quality shells is a good investment at the point of impact. Lead shot is still the most popular type among pheasant hunters but non-toxics such as HeviShot & Bismuth are gaining ground. Federal lands(all Waterfowl Production Areas) and many state properties now require non-toxic shot.
Most states require at least one article of clothing above the waist be blaze orange. Your head is usually the first thing to be seen by other hunters and probably should be covered with a blaze orange cap. If you’re walking a river bottom or cresting a hill, your head could be the only thing another hunting group will see. However, some hunters like the idea of wearing a classic oil skin cap or cowboy hat. If you’re willing to accept the risk, wear what you like. A blaze orange hunting vest is an inexpensive garment that every pheasant hunter should have. On warm days, you can wear a t-shirt underneath it. On cold days, layer a jacket under the vest. Hunters in northern states should have a hunting parka for cold days. When it comes to pants, go rugged. Chasing pheasants will take you into some of the nastiest habitat on earth. Prickers, burrs, and thorns are common. Rawhide chaps are popular but if you’re on a budget heavyweight jeans will do just fine. A pair of high quality leather shooting gloves will protect your hands from getting scratched up.
Pheasant hunting involves walking, a lot of walking. Buy high quality, above-the-ankle boots. Upgraded insoles are also a good investment. Deer hunters often buy boots with high Thinsulate ratings. Insulation usually isn’t an issue for pheasant hunters. Constant movement is enough to keep your feet warm. However, waterproof boots are a good investment. Pheasant cover is often marshy and it is no fun hunting with wet feet.
Anytime you fire a gun you should be wearing eye protection. Malfunctions can be catastrophic but even a simple misfire can send powder into your face and eyes. Hunters can also suffer a scratched eye due to thorns or berry bushes. If you’re hunting into the sun, a pair of sunglasses really help cut down the glare. Yellow or orange glasses improve contrast. Hearing protection is also recommended. Simple foam earplugs can be purchased for under a dollar at most sporting goods stores.
Drinks & Snacks
Pheasant hunting isn’t a sedentary activity. You’re going to burn significant energy while in the field. Bring along water & sports drinks. High quality food sources such as bananas & apples are also great for the hunt. If you’re hunting with a dog don’t forget to bring some water for him as well. I wouldn’t feed a dog a meal immediately before or during the hunt. However, water and a small snack once in a while will keep him hunting hard.
A dog isn’t required but will make finding live and downed birds much easier. Common pheasant hunting dogs are German Shorthairs, English Pointers, Weimaraners, Spaniels, and Labrador Retrievers. But just about any dog can be an asset in the field if they have basic obedience training and don’t range out too far. A friend of mine hunts pheasants with a mutt that doesn’t look anything like a typical bird dog. Keep in mind you will get what you put into a dog. If you haven’t put a lot of effort into training your dog for the hunt, don’t expect a lot out the dog. Spending your day yelling at the dog isn’t going to be fun for anyone. If the dog is a novice leave him home or be willing to accept mistakes.