Tips For Opening Day Pheasant Hunting
Opening day of pheasant season is a lot like the first day of school. Everyone is wearing their fancy new clothes, people are wandering around aimlessly, and lessons are about to be learned. Hunters and their quarry get an education. Hunting success often hinges on preparation. These tips will help you get the most of your opening day hunt.
Get Your Gun Ready!
The number of hunters who pull out their shotgun for the first time all year on opening morning never ceases to amaze me. These are often the same people who are irritable by lunch time because they’ve missed a handful of birds. If you only hit 25% of the birds you shoot at it takes twelve rooster flushes to fill a three-bag limit. And that is just for one hunter. Spend some time at your local range shooting trap, skeet, and sporting clays. Good shooting is a matter of muscle memory. Without practice muscle memory doesn’t develop.
Crop rotations are always in flux. Last year’s corn field could be soybeans this year. What was alfalfa might be sunflowers now. That old CRP field might have a house sitting on it today. Having this information a few weeks before the season will make your opening day hunts more productive. I tend to cover a lot of ground on opening day. After all, it’s only opening day once a year. If I cross a few spots off my list beforehand, it helps me hunt the best ground when the hunting is good.
Hydrate and Dress in Layers
Opening day temperatures are often warm. A layered outfit allows you to shed clothing as the day warms up. A cooler full of water will help quench your thirst and keep you sharp during the hunt.
Bring Some Friends
Cover is usually really thick on opening day. Crops haven’t been picked and no one has walked through fields yet. Effectively hunting in eight-foot-tall corn is basically impossible but the birds are often in there. Having some extra hunting companions can help you make effective drives to push pheasants into more manageable cover. Opening day crowds keep some folks from leaving their house on opening day but don’t be afraid to team up with other hunters you meet in the field.
Most of the birds killed on opening day are young roosters. It’s just a fact of the numbers game. Generally, there are more young of the year birds than mature pheasants, especially on opening day. Younger birds tend to hold tighter. Many of them will literally flush at your feet. Look for running birds later in the season. On opening day, take it slow and stop often. Compensate with your choke tube as well. I usually go with a modified choke tube for opening day pheasants.
Opening day can be one of the most rewarding days of the season. Birds are uneducated and more abundant than they will be all season. But dense cover, warm temperatures, and crowds are big challenges. Just like in school, doing your homework can make your opening day a huge success.
By Chris Larsen
Last Updated: August 30th, 2023