In my 44 years of pheasant hunting, I’ve made all the mistakes there are to make…or I’ve seen others make them.
The biggest – and most common – mistake I see is hunters walking too fast through cover, any cover, but especially thick cover. I’ve done it too, but did it more when I was younger. I understand it too: some folks just don’t know how to walk slow, but many just do it because they are so hyped up or their dogs are out of control and they try to keep up (this is hopeless…you will never keep up with a hard running dog). Train and get an e-collar to cure this.
Anyway, you should not only walk slow, but stop every 20 or so yards…especially in heavy cover. I can’t tell you how many roosters I’ve shot in cover when my feet were standing still …or birds I’ve killed that got up behind me from a dog that knows better than to hunt too fast. Rule #1: Trust the dog, follow the dog, and watch the dog…always.
Pheasants are nervous critters. They just freak out when they think you know where they are, which is what they think when you stop. I remember once in Minnesota, a buddy and I stopped at the end of a drive and were talking. After a few minutes, first one rooster got up to my right and then another to my left. I bagged both of them by just turning one way, then the other. Easy shots.
The second biggest mistake pheasant hunters make is making too much noise with car doors, talking, etc. Especially in late season, this just chases the birds off. I’ve seen them fly away many times. Save the yacking for the end of a drive.
Third, I’d say too many pheasant hunters shoot too soon. This results in a hit where the bird is destroyed and inedible or a miss because the pattern is too tight. Show a little confidence…let the bird get out a bit before shooting.
So folks, slow it down, be quiet and let those close in roosters take a few wing beats before shooting and you’ll put more pheasant on your dinner table. Yum. Can you think of other mistakes?
-Mark Herwig is editor of the Pheasants Forever Journal and Quail Forever Journal. Email Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org.