Avoiding pheasant-hunting crowds on public land
Across the country we are seeing early numbers roll in as far as hunting and fishing license sales. Some states have seen a 10%-plus boosts in license sales, while others have sold record-breaking amounts. If you’ve spent any time hunting pheasants on public land lately, you likely find this very easy to believe.
The rooster-chasing crowds are thick, and it doesn’t seem to matter whether you’re out on a Tuesday or a Saturday. That said, there are some ways to beat the pressure and find a few cagey ringnecks.
For starters, look at the well-worn paths leading from the parking areas. They undoubtedly angle toward patches of willows, the edge of cattail sloughs, or along anything that looks like solid rooster cover. This is probably where at least 75% of the hunting pressure concentrates from day to day.
While more challenging, create your own pathways. Dive deeper into the cover with your dog, or cut out across the vast expanses of grasses that don’t offer any better-than-average looking cover. We’ve found more roosters than ever before this year hiding in random spots, and I suspect it’s because birds are relocating slightly to avoid the most hunters and their dogs.
And speaking of dogs, the idea of not following the most likely hunting paths along the cover and parallel to the fences allows you to really work the wind. For pointers this is a plus, but for flushers it’s a must. Working a dog with the wind in its face as much as possible throughout any given route is the best way to find roosters that don’t want to be found. This is simple stuff, but tougher to abide when you planned to hunt a specific path around a property.
My hunting partners and I often find when we go a little freelance in the middle of a chunk of CRP that the dogs tell us where the birds are, and that is often not where they “should” be. It can be tough to break from what looks and feels like the best way to flush a few birds, but if you’re hunting public land, you’ve got to consider the pressure.
Which, this year, is really high.