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How to Hunt Pheasants in Cold Weather

We've talked about hunting pheasants in the winter and cold before.

But there is more to be covered. Specifically we're going to look at one of the big changes in the way pheasants survive the cold winter months.

Feeding patterns change as the temperature drops. This seems to happen no matter where the pheasants are. When the cold sets in the birds change their patterns and it presents an opportunity for hunters.

Cold Temperatures Mean More Food and Less Time

There are two big changes in the way pheasants eat during cold temperatures.

First, the birds eat more. This is like all animals including humans. We pack on the fat during the cold months for warmth and because food can be difficult to come by when it's cold.

The birds tend to feed more. They eat anything that is available in their normal feeding areas. They'll eat more instead of browsing around as they would when it's warmer.

The second thing hunters notice when they study birds in cold months is that the birds don't stick around long when feeding. Pheasants are eating more, but they're leaving after only spending a short time.

There are probably a few reasons for this change in feeding habit.

Perhaps the birds are simply cold. No animal wants to stay out in the exposed feeding area during the cold months. They want to get in and get as soon as they can so they can get fed and get back to warm cover.

The birds might also know they stand out more against the snow. They are likely to be more in danger from predators when feeding during the cold months. Predators know the birds must feed more so they can sit on the feeding areas and wait.

By getting in early and getting out fast the birds can make haste with their feeding and then get out before they put themselves at too much risk.

Types of Food for Cold Weather Pheasants

The birds will stick with pretty much the same food during cold months. They'll get in the corn and oats during this time, but they won't be spending as much time in the feeding areas.

During the early season hunters may spend time walking through crop areas or even grass fields. This doesn't work quite as well during the cold months. The birds are getting back into the cover before the season opens in the morning.

It's more of an advantage for the hunter to hit the cover like cattails and other such areas. These spots won't produce as much or at all during the early months, but once the weather turns cold and the snow flies you'll find the birds here even when you first get on the ground in the morning.

Typical Cover Areas

We already mentioned the cattails. These have always been a great late season spot to find the birds during the day.

Additionally, you'll find birds in deadfalls and other overblown areas. Abandoned farms can sometimes be goldmines during the late season. These places are overlooked during the early season and for good reason. The birds are eating during the day, but during the late season the birds are quickly eating in the morning and evening and then getting back into the cover where they are protected from the cold and from predators.

Hit a few old farms and find the areas that have been blown over and overlooked by the equipment for years. You should find some good birds all day long sitting down tight.

Flushing Cold Weather Pheasants

Hunters notice that pheasants sit real tight in the cold. They don't travel that much and once they're in the thick cover they really don't want to move at all. They'll sit down in the overblown areas until you practically have to step on them.

It's tricky hunting because you have to get real close to the birds and it requires walking through some tough terrain along the wood edges. You'll find yourself in some awkward positions and in no position for shooting unless you're with a partner or two.

Do what you can in this situation. It certainly makes things more challenging. Go with a few partners and take turns walking through the thick stuff. You'll kick up a few birds, but they'll be tough.

Taking dogs out in the cold is tough too. It can be hard on the dog, but it's also tough for the birds to flush with the dog.

For late season hunting train the dog to get real close. You don't want them to pass by birds that are just sitting tight in the cover all the time. It's a challenge and it can lead to great training.


Cold weather pheasant hunting presents a challenge. The birds are sitting tight and not spending time out in the fields eating as they normally do during the early season.

Get on the cover and take your time. The birds will be sitting tight so you'll likely pass a few birds. Don't get too discouraged because the birds aren't going far. Train your dog to be a little extra patient as well. Make sure they understand that they don't have to overlook any area.

The late season is challenging, but it can be very rewarding. Those old farms with deadfalls and overblown areas that were worthless early in the season can be your late season honeyhole.

Best of luck this late season. And make sure you have on a warm pair of socks.

Photo: rkramer62

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