There might be a library full of techniques on how to hunt pheasants. Here are my personal tips that have worked well over the many years I have chased pheasants.
1. Hunt for stocked pheasants
Though pheasant have been native in much of the continental United States for well over a hundred years, current farming practices have left less habitat for food and cover for a substantial population for many areas. This is where state pheasant stocking comes into play. The stocking dates and numbers are usually public and can be found in the hunting regulations manual or by calling your local division of wildlife.
It is key to know where the stocked pheasants will be released and on what date. The stocked pheasants are not too wise to natural predators and the dangers of inclement weather.
2. Know the lay of the land
This is extremely important not only for where the birds can be found but also for hunter safety to know where other hunters may access the area from. Get a good topographical map and use an online map program such as Google Maps to get an idea of what to expect when your boots hit the dirt. A quality GPS Unit with topographical maps will allow you to be well set for the hunt.
3. Hunt the edge
Hunt edge cover and along natural barriers such as creeks and thick cover. These natural areas will become a highway for pushed birds that are startled from other hunters. Many hunters hunt mostly in the centers of the fields, where walking is easier. They will push the birds along the barrier areas.
4. Let the birds come to you
Hunt farther back in the opening hours thereby avoiding the crowds and you will be where the pheasants will be moving towards. This may be accessed from side roads that are less frequented by the big city hunters. Turn them into your pheasant drivers.
5. Gather the facts
Drive around to the hunting area parking lots and talk to the fellow hunters. Those that have bagged many will usually be bragging and the not so lucky will be quite apparent quickly. If you have friends that live in the area, they can tell you a lot as they are your local eyes. Also, the private lands adjacent to the public lands typical house refugee birds. If you can, get permission to hunt these parcels.
6. Use your eyes and ears
If the area has been stocked, many times there will be the telltale tracks of the stocking vehicle. This is your ground zero to hunt from while fanning out. Using the ears will tell you where the birds are also, that leads us to number seven. You can protect your hearing and also hear much better while hunting with products like the Walker’s Game Ear.
7. Lunch break seconds
This is a favorite noon time tactic. By lunch time, most hunters have headed out of the fields in search of lunch. When all gets quiet, the birds emerge from their hiding places. This is when the smart hunter hits this area. Surprise these birds as they come out to feed. Quiet approaches are the key and stay hidden from the birds if possible.
8. Watch those sneaky runners
Sometimes pheasants prefer to run and many times will stay within cover instead of opening themselves as an aerial target. Hunt these birds as you would a rabbit. It just may run right past your feet! Remember also if the shot is really close aim for the head to avoid massive meat damage from a close range shotgun blast.
9. Dress for success
If you are sweating and dragging your feet the whole trip, you will not be ready for the shot when it presents itself. Shed layers as the day gets warmer or add more as needed. Wear quality brush pants and a tough hunting jacket to avoid getting bit by thorns. A lightweight shotgun is a must too. Leave that heavy goose gun at home. Make sure you wear hunter orange to let other hunters know you are there. It beats getting pelted by bird shot any day.
10. Use a dog
Hunting with dogs increases your chances for success in a huge way. Cost of keeping the hounds all year might be problematic though. Maybe a friend has some well trained hunting dogs? Pair up with him and you will notice your game bag will get heavier quicker than without man’s best friend.