Monday, February 6th, 2023
Monday, February 6th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Time for the late-season rooster roll call

The most challenging (and rewarding) time to hunt public land pheasants is from now until the end of the season. While it’s not easy, hunters willing to work will find plenty of roosters.

When it comes to pheasant hunting success, particularly on public land, there are a lot of wild cards to consider. Standing corn is a big one, and this year, the amount of water out there on the landscape is a major issue. While we should be freezing up soon, that’s not always the case for anything with a little flow to it, which means the roosters might be across a waterway from you and, in general, pretty safe.

Pheasant populations are another wild card, and while we aren’t at last year’s numbers, we aren’t without a few birds to chase around, either. The numbers are definitely good enough to justify a few days in the field, although I wouldn’t count on easy limits.

I never do, and when they occasionally come my way I’m always surprised. Mostly this time of year, it’s a matter of hunting from the moment legal shooting time begins until sunset, and then hoping there is some heft in the game bag for the effort. There usually is if you keep at it and spend your time shadowing a decent dog in good cover.

That might be the most important piece of the puzzle right now: good dogs in good cover. A great dog hunting the CRP grass where the roosters spent their time in the early season doesn’t do you much good, just as a mediocre dog in the thickest stuff on a given property isn’t so great either.

A good dog that works with you in gnarly cover is usually the key to sussing out birds on heavily hunted ground. It’s not the mowed paths and uncut milo fields of high-dollar hunts, but it sure is rewarding for anyone willing to put in the miles. As the season progresses, you’ll probably have to put on more miles and wade through thicker stuff, but the upside is the birds are easy to locate and most of your hunting competition will either stay home or hike the easiest routes.

Use that to your advantage for the remainder of the season.

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