Gearing Up For Pheasant Hunting
by Chris Larsen
One of the best parts of pheasant hunting is it's simplicity. There are no decoys or calling. Pheasant hunting is all about the hunter and his or her quarry matching wits. Sometimes the hunter is successful, sometimes the birds win. There isn't much gear required for pheasant hunting but there are a handful of essentials.
Pheasants really don't care if you're shooting at them with an heirloom quality over-under shotgun or a beat up pump. It is important to be comfortable and confident in the gun you're shooting. There is a certain style and grace to an over-under but two barrels mean just two shells. A pump or an autoloader give you three shells, with the obvious advantage of an autoloader being no need to cycle the shell manually.
When it comes to shotgun shells, everyone seems to have their own opinion. I like my pheasants either completely dead or completely alive. #3 or #4 shot is optimal but going any smaller than #5 shot is foolish in my opinion. Many hunters still shoot lead but keep in mind all federal lands and many state lands require non-toxic shot. Steel shot is inexpensive but non-toxic loads such as HEVI-Shot, Bismuth, and others offer more downrange energy. When you consider how much money is spent to hunt, a few extra bucks on premium shells is a smart investment.
Most states require at least one blaze orange article of clothing above the waist. Check regulations before going afield to confirm rules in your state. If you're hunting at a lodge, they may require more or less blaze orange. I recommend wearing a blaze orange cap and an upland vest or jacket with some blaze orange on it.
A day of hunting typically starts with a bit of a chill but a lot of walking combined with warmer temperatures will leave you shedding layers by late morning. Wear a long sleeve shooting shirt under a jacket or vest to avoid scratching up your arms in thick cover after taking your jacket off. Speaking of thick cover, chaps or brush pants will help you bust through briars and heavy cover with ease.
Pheasant hunting is an active sport. You're going to put miles on your boots, often over rugged terrain. You're looking for comfortable boots that provide support. Pheasants are found along creek bottoms and marshy cover so waterproof boots are a must have.
Eye & Ear Protection
I have a theory that the word "what" is the most common word uttered at your typical gun range. Our forefathers thought eye and ear protection was for wimps. If something happens to your eyes and ears, you don't get new ones. Hunting is one of the safest sports you can participate in. That being said, it's still important to take care of yourself with a pair of shooting glasses and ear plugs.
There are a few other things I like to bring along including a good pair of leather shooting gloves, a camera, and a knife. Enjoy your hunt and don't let the hunting gear craze get in the way of you and some fun in the field.