Keep these 23 Pheasant Hunting Tips in mind to become more successful.
If you are a beginner pheasant hunter, there are always things to keep in mind to be more successful. Whether you are getting out opening day to catch those naive, un-pressured or the late season wiley roosters. These pheasant hunting tips should definitely get more birds in your freezer.
1. Plan your pheasant hunts with Google Maps
Do your research on your hunting spots. Use the satellite images from Google Maps or Google Earth to get a lay of the land. Even if you find a hunting spot the day of your hunt, quickly jump on your smartphone. Plan the walk with your hunting partners so you can push pheasants into areas they will be forced to flush.
2. Leverage any State issued land access publications
Many states offer a physical printed copy and/or online maps to hunting land. Before heading out blind, use these maps and over lay them on Google Maps and pin your spots. Look for surrounding areas nearby that could have potential where birds are pushed off the state land onto adjacent private land.
Leverage the Weather
3. Sunny Conditions
Many times you will be driving to your next hunting spot and see many birds sitting along side cover in the open sunny themselves. During mid day travels between hunting spots, keep your eyes open on road sides, picked crop fields, etc and hunt accordingly. If posted land, find the land owner and ask permission.
During the hours where the sun is low in the sky, keep in mind in how you walk cover. If the sun is in your eyes, determining a hen or rooster is almost impossible. Just position yourself in the best way possible to make good, safe shots.
These gloomier days tend to keep the birds tucked into their cover they feel safe in. Look for cover.
Of all these pheasant hunting tips, this is perhaps one of the most crucial. Wind is everything. Where it is dead calm or gusting pretty good. Always try to use the wind to your advantage.
Pheasants rely on their hearing to alert them to danger. A day with 10-20 mph winds is ideal. Pheasants will try to get to low lying areas or on backside of hills to hear anything coming. Focus your hunting trip around hunting spots with low areas or back side of hills on days with higher winds.
Time of Day
6. Morning and “Golden Hour”
Many pheasants will start seeking food and gravel for their crop. This makes these early and late times of hunting hours easier to spot birds up or near roads getting gravel to grind their food up. Perhaps save your time and energy from walking cover.
Aside from the early and late hunting hours, focus on hunting desirable cover taking into consideration the weather conditions
Cover & Food Sources
8. Standing or recently harvested crops
Depending on which state you are hunting, hunting season typically overlaps harvest season. In North Dakota, Minnesota and South Dakota, most crops are still standing when season opens. This makes it a little more difficult to find pheasants. Obviously, the further south you travel this becomes less of an issue. Pushing your hunting trips a month until all or most crops are harvested is a good idea.
This pheasant hunting tip is the most crucial when it comes to locating birds.
This cover is perhaps the most loved by pheasants and hated by pheasant hunters and their dogs. Typcially late season, cattails are the only form of cover for the birds. Snow piles up and the inner-twined stalks create great spaces for birds to tuck away into out of the elements and prevents hunters and dogs from going in after them.
Always look for pheasant signs such as tracks in the snow to make sure birds are there to save yourself some time and energy.
Cattail sloughs are usually isolated and walking with at least 1 other hunter will force birds to flush especially if pushed to the edge of cover. Let the dog(s) work down wind to pick up any scent. Walking directly into the wind is not necessary.
10. Native Grasses
With the mixture of grasses found in CRP, this is typically another great spot. Most CRP acres are not small isolated honey holes like Cattails. Walking this cover gives the birds a better advantage. If you see birds or know birds are in the cover, use wind and know the surrounding fields to know the birds escape routes.
11. Tree lines/Shelter belts
Pheasants will roost in trees over night for safety. Usually there will be a lot of fallen trees or branches on the ground too for hiding out in. If there is not a lot of other types of cover near by, shelter belts can be very successful. Use the wind to your advantage and bring a hunting buddy to walk the other side. Your hunting dog should naturally work the down wind side of the grove.
12. Other Hunting Seasons
Keep other hunting seasons such as deer hunting (with rifle) season in mind. Safety is first! Besides wearing orange yourself, make sure your dogs have on orange dog vests so not to ever be mistaken as a deer by an itchy trigger finger.
Keep in mind that lazy deer hunters will “post” for pheasant hunters with dogs to push any deer out for them. It is best to just work on the honey-do list instead.
13. Off the beaten path
If you can find some spots way off any nearby roads using Google Maps, make these types of spots “yours”. Perhaps you have to walk a long ways to get there, but usually you’ll be rewarded. Pheasants will be pushed to cover and stay there if they are not forced from there. Do not over pressure these spots. Keep them secret.
14. Have Dogs Ready
Have your dog vests and e-collars on before your get to the hunting spot. Even stopping a mile away to let the excited dogs do their business or burn up some excitement so they don’t spook birds before you have your gun loaded.
15. Have yourself Ready
Unless it’s uncomfortable, try to have your hunting jacket on so you can just grab your gun, let your dogs out and load your gun. You never know if your limit of roosters is sitting right by the approach. It does happen! Prior to getting to hunting spot, inform your hunting party how to walk the cover using your google maps.
16. Don’t slam doors
Upon pulling into your hunting spot, when getting out, DO NOT slam your doors shut. It is possible to latch your doors just by controlling the door swing.
17. Fix Vehicle Noises
Have squeaky brakes or even those loud, obnoxious mufflers? Fix those noises or take your hunting buddies vehicle instead. If not an option, plan to park aways back and walk in.
18. Park Down wind if possible
You will not be stealthy like a ninja no matter what but parking down wind is your best bet. If if there is any wind, hoping the wind blowing through the cover the pheasants are tucked into will mask your noise. However, if there is no wind, again, park back a little ways and keep your noise down. Try not to yell/whistle at dogs or chatter with hunting party.
19. Walk Slow
It’s easy to get adrenaline rushing when you see pheasants flushing ahead wild. But picking up your pace may rush you over many birds that did not flush. Let the dogs work. This is perhaps one of the most important pheasant hunting tips when it comes to working cover.
20. Zig Zag
Watch how your dogs work the cover. Try to walk and step in areas they did not cover. If pheasants did avoid your dogs nose in certain areas, walk the cover they didn’t get to.
21. Stop…A lot!
How many times have you stopped to relieve yourself from the coffee you consumed on the way that morning? Put your gun down and start. Then “cackle” and wings flapping. That just happened and you can just watch.
Pheasants will get nervous when they can’t hear you anymore. If you are in thick cover especially when the birds have the advantage, just stop more often for 20-30 seconds minimum. Use this time to pin point your dogs, see how they are behaving. Dogs have a tell if they are just sniffing or if they are “birdie”. Their walk or tail are usually a sign that they are on a scent until they go on point.
22. Follow Dogs Noses
If you hunting CRP where birds can be anywhere, let the dogs guide you through the cover. Starting into the wind along the edge of gravel roads is a good starting point to allow the dogs to pick up scent.
23. Triangulate Downed Birds
When you finally get roosters down, use your hunting partners to help triangulate where the bird fell. Pheasants if not hit well will run. There are many circumstances that will not allow you to run straight at the spot it fell. The closest hunter should retrieve if the dogs do not see the spot in taller cover. The other hunters should stay put and help the other hunter get into that position.
These 23 pheasant hunting tips have come from a lot of time spent in the field and learning about pheasants and habitat they take cover in. Every hunting spot provides it’s own challenges and certain variables change yearly.