Shooting game birds is one of the most enjoyable forms of hunting in my opinion, and shooting Pheasants is one of the most fun game birds to shoot.
Pheasant shooting is a great introduction into hunting for beginners but has the complexity that can test even the elite hunters on occasion.
Check my introduction to Pheasant shooting:
You should always research into what you are shooting. What do they look like, how to identify males and females, where do they live, where do they sleep, when do they breed, and what do they eat.
The more you know about your prey the better chance of a successful hunt you will have.
Male Pheasants are the easiest to spot, their body is copper and gold, and they have green and red heads. Females don’t have to show off, so they are much harder to spot as they are a more natural brown and are smaller.
Don’t think Pheasants are easy to hunt, whilst they don’t have the amazing sense of smell that a Deer does, they do have really good eyesight and hearing.
Pretty much anywhere in the western world, if you want to hunt you will have to know the rules of where you are hunting and what you are hunting.
Every state and every country may have different rules and it is your responsibility to learn them.
Whilst people might think the Government gets involved in too many things, hunting rules are often there to manage the welfare of the animals as well as people’s safety.
Research into things like, do you have to tag the kill, when do you have to tag the kill, where can you hunt, what time can you hunt, do you need a licence or proof of education, how old do you have to be, and what weapons can you use.
For example, in a lot of places you can only hunt male Pheasants.
Dogs are better than us at most things to be fair, but they are definitely better at flushing out Pheasants than we are. A well-trained dog will be able to smell and hear Pheasants and are quick enough to flush them out.
A good Pheasant hunting dog like a Labrador or Pointer will make you life a lot easier.
Pheasant hunting is usually a fall or winter event, which is useful as dogs track better in cold, wet, muddy, and snowy conditions.
It is possible to hunt without dogs, but it is a lot harder. You will need other hunters to help you, otherwise you are basically basing your hunt on potluck.
To hunt without a dog, you will need at least 10 hunters, spread out about 7 meters apart, then you walk across the land in a line and hope you flush the Pheasants out.
Shotguns are the firearms that are used for Pheasant hunting.
There are no hard and fast rules on this, you will find people using a range of break, pump-action, and semi-automatic shotguns and a range of gauges but 12-guage is probably the most commonly used.
Pheasants are tough little birds so you will need a shotgun you are proficient with, and you will need a heavy shot usually a size 4.
There are often requirements on the type of shot you use because you are often shooting on public land, so lead shots are often illegal. Again, you should know all this before you go on the hunt.
Pheasants thrive in wide open moorland, farmland, and like thick cover. So, you are going to be out in the elements, and you are going to be covering a lot of miles.
So, good quality all-weather and waterproof hunting or hiking boots are a no brainer. You will also need to wear appropriate clothing to keep warm and dry. The usual outdoor rules apply… dress in layers.
Some locations will have clothing rules, for example you may need to wear orange.
Now you need to decide where to hunt. Look on maps for likely places Pheasants will be located, are you allowed to hunt there and when are you allowed to hunt there. A great way to do this is to join local clubs or forums.
It all depends on where you live in the world, but unfortunately for your fingers and toes the best Pheasant hunting time of year is usually the beginning of winter.
You are generally looking for public grounds and access. Which can mean there could be a lot of hunters of varying standards, so be careful and following good safety.
If you are new to hunting Pheasants, then I would recommend your first hunts are in an organised group or club.
Once you have more experience you can go out looking for those more remote and less popular areas.
Always tell people where you are going, and how long you will be. So, if you do not return on time, people know to raise the alarm. That is just standard good practise for any outdoor trip.
As with a lot of wild animals Pheasants are more active early in the morning or just before dark. So, this is the best time to plan your hunts.
Also, as you are hunting on public land, there will likely be a lot more hustle and bustle during the main daylight hours, so it is best to avoid this time regardless.
People need water, hunting dogs need water, and guess what Pheasants need water. You are not going to find many Pheasants in the desert!
So, concentrate your hunt around water sources within the suitable habitat for Pheasants.
I have touched on the possible difficulties of hunting on public land. So, if you can afford your own land to hunt on then great but for most of us that is not an option.
The next best thing is to get permission to hunt on private land or the most common option is to join a Private Hunting Club.
They will often have longer hunting seasons, areas to practise shooting with clays, areas to train your dog, and varying degrees of difficulty depending on your experience.
If you are hunting alone, then don’t bother if you do not have a trained dog. If you do have a dog, then you are best being in defined spaces like farmer fields rather than wide open moorland.
This is because it is easier for you work an area logically.
In a farmer’s field, you can work around the edges, before working your way inwards. It is also easier for you to keep your dog within range.
You will also be able to keep the Pheasants in a confined area, and there is more chance of you being able to find cover.
Different dogs are better at different things, and you should consider how you want to hunt before choosing a dog. Some dogs are flushing dogs, they will flush out game, so you need to be close to them and ready to take the shot.
Other dogs are pointers, they will locate a game bird but not disturb it. They will point to where it is and allow you to flush it out yourself.
If you are out in big cornfields, marshes, and moorland then you are best off being with a group of friends or an organised club.
These areas are just too big to hunt efficiently alone. So, you can cover more ground in a group and there is a better chance of one of you being able to get a good shot off.
The drawback is more people more noise, so before the hunt set out what is expected of everyone and agree on things like hand-signals, so you do not have to talk on the active part of the hunt.
When covering ground, walk generally forward but in a zig-zag pattern like a trail a snake would leave. This enables you to better cover ground, rather than just walking straight up and down.
Also like a snake you should be quiet, low to the ground, and be ready to strike when needed.
Pheasants aren’t as big and heavy as a Turkey but in the right conditions they will leave a footprint for you to track. This is especially true in wet and muddy conditions.
Pheasants have 3 toes, the longer middle one pointing at 12 o’clock, and two shorter outside toes pointing at 10 and 2 o’clock. A bit like a tiny version of the T-Rex footprint in Jurassic Park!
They don’t roar like a T-Rex though, they make a crowing noise which isn’t as loud as a dinosaur roar, but it is audible if you know what you are listening out for.
When you flush out a Pheasant it wont just sit there waving, waiting to be shot. It will try to take flight and escape. That is the reason people practise with clays, as it is the kind of trajectory a Pheasant will take.
DO NOT shoot when it is less than human height, as that’s when accidents can happen. Wait until it is above head height. Then take your shot.
Remember it is a moving target, a surprisingly quick one at that. So, do not aim at the bird, aim ahead of it so the Pheasant flies into the shot.
You will miss shots, and when you do don’t be discouraged. When you do hit and kill a Pheasant… well done.
Make sure you field dress it and cool the meat as soon as possible, to keep the meat fresh.
However, as you are often hunting in cold mornings and twilight this isn’t a huge concern like it would be after shooting a deer in wide open and hot grassland.
A lot of hunting does require common sense if you are a beginner, then the knowledge comes with experience.
There are a few general common-sense things any Pheasant hunter needs to do/know:
Pheasant is a delicious bird that is high in protein, nutrients, and vitamins. So, it is well worth hunting.
I do love long multi-day hunts, and I love bringing back a buck that can feed my family for months. However, those hunts are not always practical and Pheasant hunting is a different change of pace.
I believe you should hunt all kinds of animals, as this is the best way to become a better all-round hunter.
If you only hunt deer, then you will only know how to hunt deer!