Q: I’ve just started bird hunting at local preserves and enjoy it very much. But I’d like to hunt wild pheasants and there aren’t many in my state. Can you help?–S.S.
A:Congratulations on deciding to go hunting instead of shopping. You’ll probably have to travel for wild birds. I’ve hunted some “preserves” that advertised a mixture of wild and planted pheasants, but have rarely shot anything but short-tailed roosters with stubby leg spurs, an indication that wild birds were in short supply.
The best wild pheasant hunting exists in the Midwest, primarily in the tier of states from the Dakotas south to Kansas, along with Iowa. Most of these states have some public hunting areas and (depending on hunting pressure) some landowners still allow hunting to folks who ask. Increasingly, however, the finest wild pheasant hunting requires a fee on private land, a result of increased demand and a static supply.
Public areas and “free” farms will have more birds early in the season, but pressure will also be greater. Later hunting finds fewer birds but far fewer hunters too. On high-pressure ground, try to hunt places that most hunters overlook, both near and far from parking areas.
If you can afford to pay for access, look for a landowner who manages his land for pheasants, not just cows or corn. I can recommend Cam Wyly, 1-877-225-6310, near Aberdeen, South Dakota. Sometimes a day or two at a good farm like Cam’s will give you a much better idea of how wild pheasants behave, which will be an advantage on more public ground. Wild roosters are as different from planted birds as cattails are different from corn.
Q:I’m looking for a good gun case to carry 2 rifles on the airlines. Any suggestions?–R.P.
A:There are a lot of good cases out there, but the heavier the better, whether you choose plastic or metal. I’ve seen rifle muzzles sticking through the sides of light plastic cases when they arrived in Alaska. Plan on spending at least $150. I’ve used a side-by-side aluminum Americase (POB 271, Waxahachie, TX 75168, 1-800-880-3629) for a dozen years without a problem.
But you might also want to consider a take-down case. Even most “non-take-down” rifles can be easily taken apart to fit in a shorter case, which makes carrying the darn case a lot easier, both around airports and in vehicles. Bolt-action rifles can be taken out of their stocks, or buttstocks can be removed from two-piece stocked rifles, and usually won’t lose their zero if put together tightly again. I had my 2-gun take-down custom made by Bear Track Cases (43 Dunham Road, Rolling Hills, WY 82637, 307-436-2814). It’s even stouter than the Americase, and a little lighter.