Hunting & Heritage  |  10/03/2022

Carp's Corner - Early Bird Gets The Bird


By Tom CarpenterPhoto by Matt Addington

You know one kind of pheasant hunter I like? One that says something like this before opening day and during the season’s early days:
You know, I really don’t hunt the first week or two of the season. Too many nimrod hunters to contend with. And I like to wait until the crops are in. 
Say what? I’ve heard it with my own ears. Witnessed it on social media. Seen it in (in)action. I think it’s great: Leaves more birds for this nimrod. And you, if you go too. The math is simple: Every day after day after day, roosters on the public lands upon which you and I rely on for some to most if not all of our hunting are whittled down one by one by one.
And the birds that don’t ride out of the habitat in gamebags are going through the University of Pheasant Hunter and Bird Dog Evasion for a bachelor’s degree (week 1), masters (week 2) and PhD (week 3).

As for standing crops — something we pheasant hunters always seem to contend with and like to use an excuse for “waiting it out” or for not getting birds — I always go back to my dear friend, great hunting buddy and PF living legend Scott Rall’s immortal words to me when I once lamented such a situation:
“Tommy, there are always some birds in the grass. You just gotta hunt.”
He’s right of course. If I had a dollar for every bird I shot in grass flanked or surrounded by standing crops (and not at the golden hour by the way) I could … well, we’d have to add it up over 49 seasons. You ain’t gonna shoot birds if you ain’t out hunting.

And what about your dog? Do you think your dog cares if there are other hunters across the road, or you have to drive to a new spot because there was a rig in the parking area, or that beautiful spread of prairie grass was surely hunted earlier in the day, or there is a big, unharvested cornfield next door to where you want to hunt?

The answers are all no.

Okay so we’re not worrying about other hunters. Or crops. And your dog just wants to go. What else might hold you back? I have heard this one several times:
Ya, I don’t like to shoot young birds in early season. Gimme a mature rooster and not a half-grown mama’s boy.
I have shot many young roosters, or shorttails, as I like to fashion them. It happens. A good point from my dog, an adolescent cackle, a flash of color … boom. Young roosters taste mighty good. And as I will shoot jake turkeys (passed up a full gobbler last year for his young shortbeard buddy) and small deer (they drag easier and eat better), I value a young early-season rooster that has given my dog some good work, saved the day and put a smile on my and the dog’s face.

I’ll leave you with one more. Late seasons can get shut down awfully early and mighty quick with a good old blizzard or two. Skip the early season and you could be sandwiched to maybe two or three weeks in between.

Of course, everyone makes their own choices. And there is no room to judge those that do not like early-season pheasant hunting and bide their time (though admittedly it does make me happy). And living where I do, many of those upland hunters bide that time in the ruffed grouse woods, and you have to respect that. I just get all that other hunting out of the way before pheasant season.

He was a pheasant hunter. If they engrave what kind of hunter I was on the proverbial tombstone, that will be it. When it is pheasant season, I hunt pheasants, hard and to the bitter end, from the very start.

Tom Carpenter, assisted by Lark, is editor at Pheasants Forever.

This story originally appeared in the 2022 Fall Issue of the Pheasants Forever Journal. If you enjoyed it and would like to be the first to read more great upland content like this, become a Pheasants Forever member today!