The Pheasant hunt


Once a year I and three other friends get together for our annual pheasant hunt. This year I had been working on refurbishing an old 11-48 20 gauge for the hunt, I managed to get it done just in time. The hunt takes place on Peele Island which is famous for its pheasant hunting. All the residents go out of their way to make the hunters feel welcome and provide us with a great hunting experience. Pheasant hunting is an exciting sport it is hard to describe the feeling you get when a bird pops out in front of you. At the moment a bird is flushed your hear it jump and it is not just about simply shooting the bird any longer it is about gaining control of your excitement quick enough to take aim and bring down the game.  No matter how many times I do this and how many birds I flush my heart still jumps and my blood still races. One of the methods I try and employ and I stress try, is to be ready to look with my shotgun at shoulder. Too many times I get caught looking at the bird as it rises and then trying to shoulder my shotgun and aim by the time I do all that the bird is well on its way to leaving me behind. It is important from the moment you start to hear the bird rise you are at the ready. You should be rising up your shotgun as you get the pheasant in sight (make sure it is a pheasant), once you have locked on to the target made sure it is safe to shoot you can simply take off your safety and fire.

Of course there is a little more that needs to happen before you can pull the trigger. Our group has only one dog so the dog is worked hard for the three days we go out. But a dog is almost a must in most situations if you hope to flush out birds. I thought it would be nice to talk about a couple things you need to know about hunting pheasant; one is the clothing and the other is technique.


First off let’s start at my favourite spot the foundation, your boots. Pheasant hunting takes you through a lot of brush and over a lot of terrain you will be walking more than just a couple of mile to a stand. A high boot is good to keep out brush and stubble, you might pick up while walking along, if you had a lower boot. You walk a lot of field s and fence rows, the birds will hide in the thick of things so you will be treading in a lot of wet terrain it would also be good to have a water proof boot mine are a pair of Irish Setter gore tex lined boots. Pants wise you need a good sturdy pant either brush pants themselves or often pants made as work pants will handle the thickets and brush you have to tread through. Upper body wear is tricky you are always wearing Hunter safety orange I like to wear it on my torso and head. On some days it is very cold to start and warms up as you go along. Keep in mind you will also be working hard to flush the birds and that alone can work up a sweat. When pheasant hunting you are not often too far away from your vehicle though and often we moved back to the truck to change fields so a layering system works well. At the point you get back to your vehicle you can adjust your clothing appropriately. If you are not circling back to you vehicle on your hunt another method is to make sure you have clothing that vents well using built in zipper vents or at least have multiple light layers. With light layers you will be able to take them off and carry them in a side pocket. Wind is a large factor as well so make sure that your head gear can cover your ears and most of your head if need be.  My Game vest is separate from my coat and provides me with my hunter safety orange. A couple of things you should look for in a game vest is a trim design. Get it a couple of sizes larger to fit over layers some vests come with adjustments that give you a couple of size ranges. Remember that features like pockets and game bags should be well designed as to not be to open and get hung up. A flaw I found in my current vest is that the shell pocket closures are too loose and flimsy and when I bend over to pick up my game or tie a boot lace back up the shells will spill onto the ground. They provide shell holder loops on the inside of the pocket but I find those bothersome to load since they’re  designed too tight and also don’t provide enough spaces for the amount of ammo you normally carry on a hunt of this type. So to compensate for this short coming in my vest I carry a shell belt but will be looking for another vest in the near future.

Hunting Techniques

The key to hunting any animal is to know your prey and a pheasant’s number one weapon in its fight to stay alive is not to be found its number two weapon is flight allowing it to escape its predators. So to start with look at where you can hunt them they will always stay in areas that they can hide and seek cover yet not so dense that they can’t run and take flight if a predator gets too close to them. So to make it easy on yourself if you can’t walk through it if the over growth is so tight you have to fight your way through it is most likely they’re not in there because it does not provide an open area to fly out of. In the event you chase them and force them into such an area you have little to no chance of getting a shot at them the brush will be too thick, so stay to where you can get to and the chances are they are most likely there.  

Anyone who has hunted pheasant over a period of time will tell you some days they fly at the slightest sign of trouble and other days they will sit until you practically have to step on them. The latter being the most difficult days to hunt pheasant because in all the space you have to cover it makes it that much more difficult to flush them. There are other times when they will run before they flush out and fly. Why they behave the way they do, is mostly based on the weather conditions. My first time hunting pheasant  was on a sunny day and I was wading through golden rod I was about 16 years old I did not have a dog so walking the field was all I could do, I pretty much stepped right on a pheasant not knowing it was there right in front of me. Well when it came up it made such a noise and startled me I thought I was going to have a heart attack. In the end all I know was that I heard three shots ring out and I was still looking down my barrel at a bird that was flying away from me. There is no real way to know how the birds will behave at the onset of a hunting day except for to watch the patterns of behaviour and adjust your group as you go along. After all the, dog shouldn’t have to do all the work.  It is most likely on a cold day that follows a cold possibly wet night that the bird will be in thicker brush bunkered down out of the wind trying to stay warm. Weather conditions like these are your first clue on how to form your hunt. When the birds refuse to flush until you are right on top them, then you have to use the line/drive method and get your group to form up and form a line to be able to cover as much area as possible. As the dog or dogs work the ground, a line of hunters can make sure to do a secondary comb of the brush just in case one slips by the dogs. If they are sitting tight anyways most of the shots will be close flush shots with the bird flying up at the last minute possible. In one case this year I was walking back through a bush behind the dog through an area I had just gone by a few minute before as we swung the group back around the dog stopped ten feet away from me on the other side of a tree to my left, he practically stuck his nose on the rooster to get it to flush up out of a pile of tall grass. I had just walked by the area not even a minute before, it was my fault on such a day not to stay directly behind the dog because I was out of position and the bird flew up with plenty of tree between me and it to prevent me even taking a shot.

In the second case when they are flushing and running you can try a line and post method. You incorporate some of the same techniques as with just a straight line/drive except you take a few hunters of the line and post them down at the far end of the bush or fence row you are running. At this point if the birds are flushing easy or running on the ground the line of hunters and dog(s) will chase the bird straight down the row or bush to the other hunters posted at the end. More than a few times on the last day this year we had a bird run up and then flush out over 30 yards a head of the line thinking it was getting away only to fly right into our posted hunters at the end of the bush/fence row.

About terrain

Ditches fence rows and small bushes with medium under growth are great places for pheasant to hide. When running any property it is important to remember the dog owner always has the responsibility to be on the flushing line one of the banes of owning the dog. Other hunters obviously will help run the flushing line but when positioning the hunter with his dog if you only have the one or a couple remember to look at the terrain. A good example is say if you are running a fence row with a ditch in it. Even for a dog it is a problem to cross some ditches and if they are steep enough this will cause the dog  not to want to work hard to cross frequently so try and look at which side has the widest strip of brush on the side of the ditch. A narrow strip of brush, hunters can easily kick and flush. A wider strip you want the dog to be working with his nose, so position the hunter controlling the dog with a little planning. In the case of a bush, older bushes will have larger trees causing a thicker canopy and not so much under growth. If the under growth is thin then you need to realize the birds have no cover and probably won’t hide there. Don’t automatically run the dog up the middle, the side allows sun light in and will cause brush to grow under the large trees providing cover for the bird. It would be wiser to run the hunter with the dog(s ) to the sides, as well it is more likely they will hide there because in the event their hiding spot is compromised they will be able to seek flight in the open field and fly fast away.


Stitch the chocolate lab the our hero of the weekend

Hope you have enjoyed the article and that this helps if you decide to take up pheasant hunting getting you started on the right foot.