How you convert that panic into action during the next split second determines whether you will hit or miss. Jerk the gun up and start pulling the trigger in self-defense, and you'll miss. As often as not, you hear a bird flush before you see it. Get your eyes on the target: not the pheasant, but the white ring around his neck. You need to edit out all the color and noise of the beating wings and the long, snapping tail, and draw your focus down ("like pulling the drawstring on a duffel bag," as one target shooter puts it) until your eyes are on the ring or the head. As your gaze settles, take a short step toward the bird with your left foot (if you're right-handed). Bring the gun to a ready position, parallel to the ground, butt lightly under your arm, muzzles pointed in the direction of the bird. Do not start swinging the gun at it until you see it clearly.