Learning How to Pheasant Hunt Part 1 – The Experience
Updated: Nov 25, 2020
I had grown up hearing stories of my grandpa hunting wild pheasants on farmland in northern Ohio. He would mention his grandparent's farm and how just driving places you would see tons of pheasants on the side of the road. Fast forward to my adolescence, and pheasants in Ohio were super rare.
Once I moved to Wisconsin, I started going with friends to shoot clays at a sporting club. I did not have much gun experience growing up, so I really enjoyed learning a new facet of the outdoors. After the first time I shot, I was hooked. The clays, the comradery, and the scenery were amazing. Following the clay course, we went into the clubhouse and had a beer and I tried pheasant for the first time. It was a basic deep-fried finger dish served with honey mustard. It was delicious. In fact, I liked it so much I had to try the pheasant poppers as well, which were bacon-wrapped jalapenos and pheasant which were also incredible. I knew from that moment on I wanted to get into pheasant hunting and harvest my own birds.
In 2019 I received an invite to learn pheasant hunting for the first time. I had a couple of buddies from a bass club I was a member of back in 2013. The three guys I hunted with all had their own dog and I quickly understood why the dogs made such a big difference. Without a dog, it was very rare to kick up a pheasant because they would never fly and instead keep running ahead of you. It was also harder to find the birds in the brush if you were lucky enough to shoot one.
I remember driving up to the public land for the first time. I just had a pair of old cheap camo pants I found in my garage and an orange hat. I had borrowed a Benelli Super Eagle 2 from a buddy for this hunt because at the time I did not own a gun. I was concerned with ticks after looking at the brush we were going to be walking, but after a brief chat with the other guys, they said it is not that bad. I asked about the plan and they described a very basic and repeatable process: get a decent distance apart, stay in the same horizontal line, and walk forward letting the dogs work out in front of us.
The goal was to keep the dogs out in front of us finding the scent trail of any pheasants a field. However, if they went out too far ahead, they could spook or flush the bird before you were within shooting range. As we marched forward, busting through dry brush and grass, we chatted at full volume, laughed, and caught up on life. It felt like a scenic walk in nature while holding a shotgun. After a while, the german short-haired pointer slowed and stopped, and its radio collar was beeping which indicated that it had found a bird. We all lowered our voices and walked slowly forward in the direction of the sound, while also maintaining our safe shooting lanes and simultaneously being ready to swing our shotguns. The bird flushed and immediately my heart rate tripled. I had no idea how close the bird was and no idea how big they seemed at point-blank range. It flapped its wings heavily, crowed or squawked loudly. In what seemed all too fast, my buddy pulled and shot the bird and it plummeted back down into the brush. His dog ran over and grabbed the bird and retrieved it. He stuffed the bird headfirst into his oversized vest pocket, and we started the same process over again with the intention of working the whole field.
On the next bird that flushed, the guys gave me one shot to try and get the bird on my own. Unfortunately, I was unable to hit the bird. I was rushing the pull and the shot, and on the next couple attempts, I was not getting the proper set position of the shotgun prior to shooting. It was all a fluster and cluster for several birds on my first two trips.
After a couple of miles of beating brush, I did finally hit a bird, but I did not drop him on my own. Two of us shot in short order and then the bird went down. However, I was happy that I finally put all the moving parts together which resulted in a shot on target. I left that second trip with much enthusiasm. I was ready to look for my own gun and start practicing with that same gun in order to become a better wing shooter. I had it in my mind that I was pheasant hunting for life, and it was time to get better.