Flushing pressured pheasants on a winter landscape

There are easier pheasant hunts than those conducted on heavily pressured public land, but no birds are more rewarding than those taken under such circumstances.

The skin on my dog’s nose is largely gone. As is the skin at the corners of her mouth and around her eyes. Rub her belly and your fingers will soon find plenty of rough spots where fresh cuts are healing beneath her thin fur.

She’s beat up, no doubt.

We spent four days roaming about a dozen different tracts of public land in Nebraska recently searching for roosters and quail. The roosters were wild, unpredictable, and really good at flushing well out of range. The coveys of quail were much more accommodating, as were the singles and doubles we flushed after the initial explosion of diminutive game birds.

To be totally honest, the quail were easy. The roosters, not-so-much.

That’s what I love about them, though. Taking possession of a wild, long-spurred rooster that spends his days on hard-hunted ground is something special. It’s one of the reasons we go back, and why I spend most of my time pheasant hunting on public land. Part of that is, of course, there’s a lot of room to roam, but it’s also a little bit of a chest-puffing exercise.

I believe some of the best hunters out there are borne on public land, and that goes for the four-legged kind, too. A dog that figures out how to flush birds that other dogs miss, and can retrieve a cling-to-life rooster that has a clipped wing and a penchant for sprinting is a dog that will fair pretty well anywhere.

In my book that’s pretty cool. In fact, I like it so much that I’m going to spend some of my last few pheasant hunting days in southwestern Minnesota despite having a few easier options available. We’ll kill fewer birds on this hunt than we could elsewhere, I’m sure, but the birds that end up clutched between Luna’s teeth will mean more to me than any other kind of pheasant could.

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