TIPS FOR GETTING STARTED
This collection of tips and insights can help you create meaningful and successful “first hunt” experiences.
TAKE SAFETY PRECAUTIONS
Upland bird hunting is a fun activity, but a very serious level of responsibility comes with taking to the field. Hunting is not inherently dangerous, but it can become very unsafe when firearm safety guidelines are compromised.
It is important for all hunters to go through a Firearm Safety or Hunter Education Course no matter how old you are. The purpose of hunter ed is to develop the knowledge, skills and attitude necessary to become a safe and responsible hunter-conservationist. In addition, most states require individuals to complete classes before issuing a valid hunting license. People can meet these requirements by attending a traditional instructor led course with classroom and range experiences (check with your state's natural resource agency for available classes) or today most states offer hunter education courses online.
While pheasants are a great game bird, the thrill of harvesting a rooster should never sacrifice the safe handling of a firearm. When going afield, it's important to refresh the basics of Safe Gun Handling before each hunt, as taught by the National Shooting Sports Foundation:
- Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction
- Firearms should be unloaded when not actually in use
- Don’t rely on your gun’s “Safety”
- Be sure of your target and what’s beyond it
- Use correct ammunition
- If your gun fails to fire when the trigger is pulled, handle with care
- Always wear eye and ear protection when shooting
- Be sure the barrel is clear of obstructions before shooting
- Don’t alter or modify your gun, and have guns serviced regularly
- Learn the mechanical and handling characteristics of the firearm you are using
CONSIDER HUNTER ETHICS
Equally as important as following firearm safety is being an ethical hunter. Though it differs for each one of us, all sportsmen & sportswomen in the field should have a personal code of ethics. Sometimes hunters are faced with situations that may be well within the hunting regulations, but may push the boundaries of ethical hunting. Remember, the actions of one hunter can affect how others view all hunters.
With social media and today’s content we have a great opportunity to re-brand what a hunter looks like to the general public. Think about telling the story beyond the harvest because a “trophy shot” picture of dead animals says little to a non-hunter about the overall experience. It is our responsibility as sportsmen/women to tell the full narrative and perhaps we’ll cultivate more people to become enthusiastic about hunting.
Also, remember to always respect other hunters who are also enjoying our wild places—don't ruin a quality hunt for another party (and yourself) by walking in on them, find another public area or knock on a door—you'll be glad you did.
- Become knowledgeable with state laws and regulations regarding the harvest of game, blaze orange requirements, season dates and bag limits.
- Reliable field gear, such as boots, hats, vests, chaps, socks and protective gear, is essential for upland bird hunting. Don't know where to shop? Check out the Pheasants Forever Marketplace and get outfitted today.
- Research weather conditions and be prepared with several layers of clothing for an enjoyable experience in the field.
- Be comfortable with your choice of firearm—most gauges of shotguns will be effective for a bagging a rooster including .410, 28-gauge, 20-gauge and 12-gauge options.
- Be aware of where you'll be hunting regarding the use of lead, as some areas require that only non-toxic shot be used. In both cases, Federal Premium Ammunition's Pheasants Forever shells are always a great choice.
USE THESE TIPS & TECHNIQUES
- Be ready in the morning as soon as legal shooting hours begin.
- Hunt the "Golden Hour"—the last hour of the day; birds move out of crop fields and into grass for roosting.
- Hunt after Thanksgiving. Late-season hunting can be very productive and a lot of fun.
- Be quiet—pheasants will bust out of the area with the sound of approaching hunters, especially late-season.
- Dogs—follow and trust their instincts, hunting dogs will work to find your birds.
- Not all land was created equal as habitat for upland birds, so hunt the good stuff before burning all your energy.
- Edges—read the contours of the land, looking for places where habitat changes, such as crops, trees, shrubs, cattails, ditches and fence lines.
- When the snow flies, the game changes. Find the thermal cover—cattails, shelter belts and food plots are king.
- Bring your hip boots or waders—if you cross water barriers that block most hunters, you may find your way to hunting utopia.