Photo by Brian Grossenbacher
The last 10 days of pheasant season are among my favorite days of the year. Cold weather forces birds to feed early in the morning, and again in midafternoon, and spend most of their time staying warm in native grass fields, sloughs, and marshes. The 12-hunter, eight-dog circus that limited on opening weekend will only scare birds now. Two to four makes a good-size late-season party.
Illustration by Jason Schneider
Push to the Corners
Force running pheasants into the corner of a field where they have to either sit tight or fly. First, have a stander sneak into position in the field corner. The remaining hunters and dogs should spread out and push the birds toward the stander, hunting into the wind if at all possible. No matter how stealthy your stander is, the pheasants will still know he's there. That makes them sit tighter. Be ready as you approach the stander and take only high, safe shots. Stay alert even after the push ends because that's when the really tight-sitting birds will flush.
Bust a Flock
Late-season pheasants gather into spooky flocks. If you've hunted the area before, you will know where the flocks like to sit and can try to surround the spot. Otherwise, push through food plots, thickets, and field edges close to food until you find birds. If they flush out of range, that's O.K. because late-season pheasant hunting is like fall turkey hunting: The hunt doesn't start until you scatter the flock. Mark where the roosters land. Plan your approach with the wind in your faces so the dogs can pick up the birds' scent. Single pheasants are much more likely to let you get within range than a whole flock is.
Hunt the Thick
Stuff In very cold, snowy weather, pheasants tuck into the heaviest cover that is available. Cattail sloughs provide great thermal protection. Go slowly. Keep your gun ready and pause often to unnerve nearby pheasants into flushing. You can shoot roosters without a dog, but a close-working flusher burrowing under the cattails will improve your chances. Wooded creekbottoms are another refuge; you'll find the birds in plum thickets and under bushy trees. Blowdowns often shelter birds, too. Give them a good stomp with your foot and see what comes out.