Hunting Early Season Pheasants
Tactics That Will Put You On The Birds
Early season pheasant hunting can either be phenomenal or extremely frustrating.
Picture this – Opening weekend, you get up early and head out to one of your favourite spots for hunting pheasants. You get there well in advance of the time when you’re allowed to hunt. As you approach you spot a truck already parked and waiting. Grrrr scooped! Well time to head to your backup spot 15 minutes down the road. RATS another truck! Okay you’ll head to your ‘secret spot’. You’re starting to get anxious by this point, the first two false starts have meant that driving to your secret spot is cutting into your hunting time. Did I mention the dogs are starting to go ballistic in the back – they can smell those pheasants they have been craving for the past 10 months in every field, weed patch, and wetland that you pass. You press on only to find that your secret hunting spot is not so secret. Seems a small army of pheasant hunters has camped at your access point to the field and are working the fields hard. Several dogs and hunters press across the field. You almost feel sorry for the pheasants and the slaughter that is ensuing. Running out of options you pick a spot that has always produced birds in the past, unfortunately it is a 30 minute drive away. Upon arrival you’re pleased to find no-one there, maybe your luck is turning around. But not 10 yards from your truck you step in a pile of doggie doo-doo and hunting the spot don’t push up a single bird. Feeling broken you return to your truck trying to regain your composure, reassuring yourself that you are a good hunter. You stop at half a dozen other spots that you know in the area, but they all have evidence of being hunted recently.
What do you?
1. Out think the other hunters
Most hunters head to the biggest and best spots first off. If you’re not willing to either camp at your favorite spot or get up well before the crack of dawn, you can write most of these places off as hunted. You will have little chance of picking up any birds in these areas until later in the season. But there is hope. Some spots seem just too obvious to hunt by most other hunters- but these are the ones you will want to hit. As a matter of fact, I’ve hunted great spots in the middle of the day that were only a stone’s throw from a campground full of pheasant hunters. Spots along the highway can also be productive. I’ve seen truckload after truckload of hunter pass by spots along the highway that when I’ve hunted them hold dozens of birds. A simple but effective tactic.
2. Think like a pheasant
The pheasants that get pushed out of the big chunks of habitat need to go somewhere. Is there a wetland or small creek near but not connected to the ‘good spots’ that may have been missed by other hunters? How about that tiny patch of tall weeds on the edge of a cropped field? Not worth your time – think again. These little spots can be a haven for pheasants and are overlooked by most hunters as too small. The simple fact is that not all of the pheasants will be shot out of the best areas and those survivors will need to whole up somewhere until the season wears on and the hunter numbers have dropped.
3. Find new spots
Study the land cover. Find little cattail marshes near a wheat field or clumps of olives off by themselves or a weedy fenceline that likely remains unhunted. Examine aerial photos to find hard to access places. All of these measures will take you away from the other hunters, will put you onto the birds, and give you another spot to hunt next year when the going gets tough.
In the late season these rules all change. The hunter numbers dwindle almost to nothing and pheasants spend cold winter days looking for thermal cover. The late season it time once again to hunt your favourite haunts. But until then try some of these tactics they may help you fill your gamebag.