According to the U.S. Department of Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report, there were 101.6 million Americans over the age of 16 who participated in hunting, fishing, and wildlife-watching in 2016?
Pheasant hunting is among the top popular animals to hunt in North America, along with moose and deer. If you’ve recently started getting into hunting, then you’ll want to try out pheasant hunting. But there are several things you need to know before you start, luckily, we’ve got you covered with our pheasant hunting guide.
The Ultimate Guide to Pheasant Hunting
When it comes to hunting, there are plenty of animals and birds that you can choose from. However, there are certain animals and birds which are better for those who are just starting out.
Pheasants are great birds to start hunting for beginners. That’s because you don’t need a lot of equipment and you can quickly gain a basic understanding of how to hunt pheasants. (Becoming highly skilled in pheasant hunting may take years to master, but beginners should be able to get started fairly easily.)
What Is a Pheasant?
Common pheasants, or ring-necked pheasants, are a type of bird. They are native to China and East Asia, however, they were also introduced to parts of Europe and North America. The common pheasant is one of the highest sought after game birds in America.
Pheasants are between 21 and 36 inches in size and typically weight 2.9 pounds. They have a life span of between 10 and 20 months. Pheasants are elusive and sly, due to their unpredictable behavior, which makes them a challenge to hunt, even for experienced hunters and dogs.
Things You Need to Know Before You Hunt Pheasants
The first thing you need to do before you go on a hunt is to familiarize yourself with the different genders. Male pheasants have a copper and gold body, with red faces and a long tail. While female pheasants are brown and often blend into their environments more.
It is vital that you know the difference between the two pheasants because it is often illegal to hunt female pheasants.
The second thing you need to do before a hunt is to conduct research. You’ll need to know the hunting regulations of the area where you want to hunt.
For example, some states require you to tag and record your hunts. Other locations might require you to wear orange, or for you to have a hunting education/qualifications. Another requirement that you need to check is the location’s rules for firearms (i.e. how old you need to be).
You should also research your local pheasant hunting season. There are specific dates that you can and can’t hunt pheasants. The season often starts in the late fall and ends in early winter, but make sure you check for the area you want to hunt in.
There are also restrictions on where you can and cannot hunt. Check public hunting grounds and their availability before you go.
It’s also advisable to arrive early to public hunting grounds, so you can secure the best spot. Generally, the best spots for hunting are away from other hunters and where there is a lot of noise that can scare the pheasants (such as near parking lots).
7 Top Tips for Hunting Pheasants
Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned hunter that is looking to improve their pheasant hunting skills, we have the very best tips that are sure to enhance your game experience. But before, we get into the top tips, always remember to check the regulations and restrictions if you’re hunting in a location you haven’t been to before.
1. Find a Good Dog Bird
If you’re wondering how to hunt pheasant by yourself or in a group, there’s one thing you’ll need and that is a good dog bird. The most successful hunters are those who have a dog to help flush out the birds. Popular breed choices are labradors and pointers.
Although hunters can be successful without a dog, those with them often have more successful hunts. Dogs can help flush out birds, but they can also help you find the pheasants after they’ve been shot.
Labradors are great for flushing out pheasants from fields that have heavy cover. They are also excellent at tracking birds after they’ve been shot.
Pointer dogs are great for finding pheasants in the grass and letting their owner know where they are. Pointer dogs are often better for morning hunts and when the pheasants are in short grass.
2. Keep Quiet
Pheasants have excellent hearing, which is why minimizing the noise on a hunt is essential. If pheasants hear a loud noise, they will quickly get spooked and either run away or hide under thick cover such as bushes.
Talking softly while you’re on a hunt is acceptable, but you should avoid making too much noise while you’re on a hunt. For example, stay away from parking lots and where possible, try to communicate with hand signals.
3. Make Use of the Whole Day
All hunters might have a preferred time of day for going out. However, often it’s best to go hunting at certain times. Hunting pheasants is similar to hunting any other animal, which means timing is everything.
For public grounds, the best time to hunt pheasants is early in the morning or in the evening, during the last hour of daylight. Mornings are great for finding the birds in light cover areas because this is when they’re looking for food. However, during the day, pheasants are most likely to be hiding in thicker cover, to hide from hunters.
The pheasants will then start moving for food again towards the end of the day. Which is also when it might be a bit quieter after daytime hunters have gone.
However, you should be able to go to private hunting grounds throughout the day and have a successful hunt. This is because the pheasants are released just before hunters go out.
4. Choose the Right Gun
A lot of hunters use a 20-gauge shotgun, while others prefer to use a 16-gauge gun. However, a 12-gauge shotgun (which can be used for other bird hunting, such as duck and goose) can be used.
It’s also important that you choose the right shot, if lead shots are allowed at the hunting ground, then use a shot between 4 and 6. Larger shots, such as a 7 1/2 might not kill the bird.
However, on many public hunting grounds, lead shots aren’t allowed, so in this instance, you should use a size 4 steel shot. There is less range with a steel shot though, so you’ll need to make sure you are close (such as within 50 yards).
Having the right gun and shot can greatly improve your chances of a successful hunt, so have a look at these Aero Precision firearm parts and see how you can improve your experience.
5. Bide Your Time
Inexperienced hunters are often too impatient when it comes to hunting. However, pheasants will hide under thick cover and will likely stick to the same area where they took refuge. To ensure you have completely covered an area, you need to zigzag an area and make sure you’ve fully checked it out.
If you want to flush the birds out then you can use your dogs or just wait. Pausing for a few seconds or minutes might be enough time for the pheasants to try and get away by either running or flying. This then poses as the perfect opportunity for you to get them.
Remember, there’s no rush when you’re on your hunt. The most successful pheasant hunters are those who practice patience.
6. Practice Your Aim
Those who are completely new to hunting, or pheasant hunting, should spend some time practicing their aim before a hunt. This will help you save money, stop you from blowing a whole box of shells, and from coming home empty-handed.
Go to a clay shooting range before you go out on a hunt to learn more about the ranges. Even if you’re an experienced hunter, you might not have the right range for pheasants. The most effective range for pheasant hunters is similar to a bow deer hunter.
Ask the experts at the clay shooting range to help give you more tips about ranges and chat with some of the hunters there about their experiences.
7. Look for Pheasant Signs
Those who are hunting in new areas may need to know the signs that pheasants are present and close by. Search for tracks and listen for pheasants that are crowing. Pheasants enjoy feeding on and hiding in corn, so look out for their favorite hiding and food source too.
If you’re in the area, the best time to scout out a hunting ground is at dusk, when the pheasants are out and feeding.
Improve Your Pheasant Hunting Skills
Follow our guide and top tips to improve your pheasant hunting skills and to enhance your experience. Remember to always thoroughly research where you’re going hunting before you go and to follow all the regulations and rules.
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