Shooting Tips For Pheasant Hunters

Pheasant Hunting Shooting Tips

Pheasant and quail hunting in Pike County, IL Ask just about any pheasant hunting guide what the best way to fill a limit of pheasants is and he’ll likely tell you good shooting.  If you kill 75% of the roosters flushed, it only takes 4 – 6 flushes to fill a limit (depending on the state your hunting).  On the other hand, if you’re shooting just 50%, it takes six rooster flushes.  Shoot worse than that and the numbers keep going higher.  It’s a lot easier to be more successful in the pheasant fields if you shoot well.  Here are a few tips for better pheasant shooting.

Pattern Your Shotgun for Pheasant Hunting

This is common practice for turkey hunters but very few wing-shooters pattern their guns. Some shooters are alarmed to find their gun is shooting to the left or right.  This can be the product of a barrel problem that needs to be corrected by a gunsmith or an issue with the choke.  Speaking of chokes, you should pattern your gun with a few different chokes. Pheasant hunters with pointers are probably shooting birds at close range.  An improved cylinder or modified choke is going to be best suited for them.  If most of your flushes come several yards away, perhaps a full choke is right for you. Knowing how your gun and shells perform will help you become a better wing-shooter.

Buy Better Ammo for PheasantsPheasants crossing road in Pike County Illinois

I always get a kick out of hunters who spend thousands on travel, dogs, guns, and everything else that goes into a hunt only to skimp on ammunition.  Some hunters will hit the fields with target loads. With everything you have invested in a hunt, an extra $20 on top shelf ammunition is a drop in the bucket. You can’t control many of the factors that lead to a successful hunt. Good ammunition is one element of the hunt you can control.

Practice, Practice, Practice

This might seem obvious but there is a difference between practicing with a goal in mind and just blowing through a box of shells on the trap range. Try shooting clay targets from a variety of distances to learn how to effectively range birds.  Deer hunters, especially archers, base all of their shots on distance. The effective range of a pheasant hunter isn’t much different than that of a bow hunter. Knowing how your ballistics perform at different distances will help put more birds in your vest. Repetition is very important for better wing-shooting and trap is great for building repetition. But to master crossing shots, shoot some skeet, five stand, or sporting clays as well.

Shooting upland game tips Be Ready to Shoot

One of my hunting partners tends to fill up his pheasant game bag earlier than others on a consistent basis.  It’s not because he’s a great pheasant hunter or has a great dog.  In my estimation, he just pulls the trigger faster than anyone else in our party.  He can get his gun up and ready to fire a half second before anyone else.  It obviously gives him more opportunities, but it also makes his shots closer.  Carrying your gun with two hands makes it much easier to be ready to shoot.  Right-handed shooters should have their left hand right where the fore-end meets the receiver.  This makes it easy to be ready to shoot at a moment’s notice.

Look Above the Pheasant

Most hunters focus their attention at ground level when their dogs get birdy.  As a result, by the time they shoulder their gun and pull the trigger, they shoot under the pheasant.  Instead, focus just about the dogs.  You will know when a flush occurs.  This puts your eyes ahead of the bird before you even shoulder the gun.  This takes some practice, but it essentially creates the lead for you.

Shooting better helps you bag more birds, but it also makes hunting more satisfying.  There is some pride in knowing you’ve developed a skill that most will never attain.  Pheasants have a way of humbling even the best of us.  You’re not going to get them all.  But shooting more consistently will make your hunts more enjoyable.

-written by Chris Larsen 

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Last Updated: September 22nd, 2023

14 thoughts on “Shooting Tips For Pheasant Hunters

  1. Hunted N.West Kansas in early 80’s my nick name was pop pop. I used my first gun my dad bought me at 12 years old. It’s a rem. 1100 20 gauge. It has a smooth barrel mod. Choke. We stayed with two farmers mike & mark mickelbrink. Great people took us right in. Best experience of my life. Thousands of pheasants. Those days will stay with me forever. I live in eastern Ohio. We did a lot of road hunting in the afternoon looking for heads then jump out of truck & run. That’s how they did it. Maybe one or one hundred pheasant wood fly. It was a beautiful sight. Mornings walk the drawls fast pace. When the snow came that’s when the birds would really bunch up. I’m 63 now with bad back not getting around like I used to. Would like one more hunt. Happy fez hunting. Cherish those hunts forever. After I’m done here going to look at those pics from our Kansas hunts. Well so long. Best hunting tony.

  2. No birds in western Kansas. Lots of walk in but no birds. Not like it used to be. Every one says it’s the hawks and other preditators.

  3. Excellent article. Patterning your shotguns is an often overlooked practice. But if you use different guns depending on how you hunt.. it’s invaluable to know how they all pattern. “Look above the birds”. I am going to try that.. I often get to focused on the ground when dogs get birdy trying to spot the bird in cover. Thanks for the tips and happy new year.

  4. Patterning is fine if you’re shooting something standing still. If you’re shooting something moving how can you pattern your gun? If you’re crushing clay targets then you’re hitting the target that’s how you know if your on. If you have time to waste go ahead and pattern.
    Two other things that are important for good shooting is being in nice weather conditions and being in a good spot for an easy shot.
    Target shooting with the same gun you hunt with is really important. A variety of different Target presentation is also important so you can simulate different kinds of shots that will happen when out hunting.

  5. I have hunted pheasants a long time in all kinds of conditions, you NEED to pattern the gun with the shot you will use all shots are different. If you pattern in a 40″ circle at 35 yards when the bird fly’s you have a large area to shoot which means more knockdowns.Happy Hunting…

  6. Getting ready for my first Pheasant hunt and was wondering what would be the best distances for patterning my gun? I plan to take an auto loader and an OU for back up.

    Great article many thanks for any advice.

    1. Thank you for your comment on our post. If you are hunting with flushers I would recommend 30+ yards. If hunting with pointers I would recommend 20+ yards.

  7. Hunted and shot many pheasants as well as grouse. IMHO many hunters shoot too quickly. /The bird is still rising and hasn’t leveled off. If you are a great wing-shooter blow the bird away. Most people shoot under it. Also, you get more bbs into the bird. Let it level off. Also, they will fly with the wind so know which way the wind is blowing. Grouse hunt different. They are usually in thick cover so if you don’t shoot quick they are gone.

  8. I have a question for anyone on here who might be able to help. I am a good to very good shot with my 20 gauge 1100, but have one flaw that I have never been able to solve. That is when a bird gets up off to my side and flies angling away (behind me). I always miss that shot. Is it simply a matter of lead or is there more to it than thar?

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