We're getting into the late season for pheasant hunting in most states.
It's been an interesting year across the plains and into the West. In South Dakota the birds have been good with a few parties have really good luck out there. Even with the wind and the snow it's been a pretty good year. Sure, there have been better years in the past, but with the drought and the early washout of the initial nesting back in the spring it was a pretty good year.
If you still have some time to get out for a few afternoon hunts around the holidays then here are some tips to make sure you get on some birds.
Get Out in the Snow
We've talked about pheasant hunting in the snow before. Here is a summary of those tips:
- Find the cover because pheasant sit tight
- Bent over trees and brush usually house a few pheasants looking to stay dry
- Any dry area out of the snow provides warmth for the birds
Getting out in the snow is great for finding wary birds. Use these techniques to take advantage of the snowy conditions. Other hunters will be sitting inside sipping coffee in the late morning while you're out harvesting the ringnecks.
Find the Cattails
The biggest tip for finding late season pheasant hunting success is to get to the cattail marshes. The birds love heading to the cover when the cold weather sets in. The birds are wary and they're looking for cover.
Find a few swaths of cattails and you'll likely find the birds. Slowly make your way through with the party and check every nook and cranny in the area. The birds will generally be sitting tight so you'll probably get pretty close to them.
Be prepared because the birds will be ready to fly and ready to get out of there in a hurry. You could have some fun on these cattails during the late season.
Keep a Low Profile
During the early season there are tons of dumb birds out in the fields. You can head out with a huge party and have some great success. But during the late season you're going to come across the smart birds that survived the early barrage of guns and lead.
It can be to your advantage to keep a low profile during the late season. Head out with no more than a handful of hunters in your group. Make your way into the areas where the birds are and sneak in where you can get real close. The birds will know if you're in a large group so you'll have a better chance with just a few hunters.
Make sure your approach into the area is quiet. The birds can tell when you're coming into the field. Try to walk in where the wind blows your sound away from the birds. Also keep the hunters in your group quiet as your approach. Have your plan of attack down back in the truck before you enter the field.
Change Your Approach Habits
It's been a few weeks to a couple months now that hunters have been out in the field. Chances are you and others have been hunting the same fields for the entire time. The birds that have successfully avoided you until this point have learned your habits.
You may have had success a couple weeks ago entering the field a certain way at a certain time, but by now the birds have wised up and they know you. When they sense that you're coming back to the field they're going to get out of there as soon as they can.
You'll have to change your approach. Enter the fields from different locations. Change things up and confuse the birds. Hunt from different angles and at different times during the day. You want to throw those birds off so they have no idea what's going on.
Hunt Near Water Sources
During the late season when the temperature is cold and the snow flies every animal goes into survival mode. Deer head for cover close to food and water and pheasants will do the same.
Find the water sources in your area and hit those hard. The birds will find the cover near the water and they'll sit tight. The water is the way the birds will survive through the winter even if there is a little ice over the top.
Think like the birds. They are in survival mode so figure out how they survive and then head them off to take advantage.
Check for Cover Near Harvested Crops
By the time the late season has kicked in the crops have long been harvested. If you think back to watching the harvest you might remember seeing the pheasants fly out of the crops into areas nearby. If you can remember where those birds were flying you can still get on them when hunting in the late season.
Pheasants will get into the ditches and thick cover near the harvested crops. This is where they'll stay throughout the late season so if you can get in there with relative ease and in stealth-mode you can have some success.
Thick cover is the biggest thing to remember when hunting late season pheasants. The birds are wary and jumpy. They are in full on survival mode so they're going to the thickest cover in the area. Find those areas where you hunt and stay quiet.
While the rest of the hunters are inside the warm house you can find success out there in the field. There are still plenty of birds to harvest during the late season. Take advantage this year and good luck!
Photo: J Wynia