Late Season Pheasant Hunting
Late Season Pheasant Hunting
By Chris Larsen
Hunting late season pheasants is a completely different experience than opening day pursuits. Weather is generally colder, cover has changed drastically, and pheasants are wise to the tactics of the average hunter. After a few months of hunting pressure, pheasants are either smart or in the freezer. Here are six tips for hunting late season pheasants.
Keep It Down
You can’t see a pheasant’s ears but they are there and they can definitely hear. It always astonishes me to see someone who is very careful about closing car doors when deer hunting make all kinds of racket before a pheasant hunt. Late in the season pheasants associate human noises with hunting pressure. Quietly gather gear before entering a field. Create a hunt plan before getting out of the truck. Have a few simple hand signals to keep talking to a minimum.
Change It Up
Most hunters enter a field the same way. Public hunting lands, private farms, or hunting lodges… it doesn’t matter. People are creatures of habit and pheasants learn how to elude them. Instead of hunting a field from the parking lot out, walk the field edge and hunt from the opposite corner back toward the usual starting point. Pheasants will often establish regular escape routes based on typical hunting patterns. Taking those escape routes away will often lead to close range flushes.
Walk The Woods
Pheasants are edge birds. You won’t have much luck hunting them in the middle of a large forest but they will often hunker down in cover along shallow strips of timber, especially if there is heavy snow on the ground. A lot of hunters will overlook these areas in favor of more traditional pheasant habitat. This human tendency is yet another reason why hunting small patches of woods is productive for late season pheasant hunting.
Find The Water
Pheasants get much of their water from the foods they eat. Summer food sources for pheasants are high in moisture content. During the winter, much of what a pheasant will eat is dry. Believe it or not, pheasants will drink as much or more during the winter than they will in the summer. Any open water source can be a pheasant hunting hotspot in the winter. Creeks offer excellent hunting when marshes and ponds freeze up.
Late season birds often flock up in groups of a half dozen or more birds. There is a good chance if you get one flush, another one is just moments away. Some hunters tend to let the guard down when the trigger is pulled and the feathers fly. Stay alert and keep an eye on the dogs and the sky.
Beef Up Your Ammo
Late season pheasants tend to be more mature birds. They are usually larger than young of the year pheasants, making them a little harder to put on the ground. Couple this increased fortitude with a tendency to flush further out and it’s easy to understand why having more firepower is a good thing. If you’re shooting with an improved cylinder, switch it out for a modified or even a full choke. I don’t recommend it but I’ve seen many hunters use target loads during the early season. When hunting pheasants during the late season go with high powered game loads in larger shot sizes. I prefer No. 2 or No. 4 shot in lead or HEVI-Shot for late season birds. Don’t let the higher costs of premium shells turn you off. When you consider how much money and time is invested in your hunt, the cost of shells is minimal.