Late season ring-necked pheasant hunting tips
Even though you may have had some unsuccessful hunts during the middle of the season, don’t put the gun away. Hunting late in the season right after a fresh snowfall can produce a very exciting, fruitful hunt. Pheasants will start to flock, and you often will flush multiple birds. Fresh tracks in the snow can help reveal where the birds are hiding.
Start with the right tools. Make sure to wear an adequate amount of blaze orange, and use the correct type of shot depending upon where you are hunting.
Dress properly. Don’t wear more clothes than necessary, and make sure to properly layer your clothing to shed some if necessary. You will heat up as you walk through snow-covered grass, cattails, and brush. Pay attention to how different your gun feels when you pull up for a shot with the extra clothing. Take the time to properly aim.
Birds have been hunted hard, so they’re more wary and will flush at greater distances. Using the correct gun and proper shells will help you be more successful. I use a 12 gauge loaded with 3 1/2-inch 4-shot steel. I use the 3 1/2-inch shells to increase my range and stick to steel shot because I hunt public lands, including federal waterfowl production areas requiring nontoxic shot.
To help prevent out-of-range flushes, hunt quiet. Don’t slam truck doors, drop endgates, yell at your dog, or talk too much. I like to hunt alone with a dog, or sometimes with one other person. Chat and devise your hunting plan of attack before you arrive. Establish some simple hand signals to communicate with your hunting partners.
Having a well trained dog with a good nose will help you flush birds, but your shooting skills will determine whether you go home empty handed or with birds in the bag.
Stick to the edges. You’ll often find pheasants on the edges of swamps or in treelines near a food source. Flushing birds near the edges of cover will give you a better shot and also make it easier to recover a downed bird. You can also find birds in thick cover, but usually it is near impossible to get a clear shot.
Pheasants tend to hang out in the same areas time after time, whether it’s a food source or a particular type of cover. So if you have flushed birds from one spot, chances are good they’ll be there in the future. Roosters also will follow the same escape routes, so learning those locations can put you in the right spot for a clean kill.
Watch how your dog is working the cover, and you’ll get a better sense for when those birds are going to flush. Birds often will not hold tight enough for a point and will flush ahead of the dogs, so be ready!
Good luck hunting and be safe!