Upland Hunting in the Mid-West and at Heartland Lodge
Upland Hunting in the Mid-West and at Heartland Lodge – A few questions and answers to help you in deciding when to come and hunt at our Upland Hunting Resort, what to bring and how to prepare for your next wingshooting adventure.
Here we are once again thinking about the up-and-coming upland bird season for pheasant and quail at Heartland Lodge. We want you to know that the most important things we want you to take away from your hunt are that it was a safe, rewarding and memorable experience for you and others who may have been with you. We are driven to provide you with a wonderful time here at Heartland Lodge. Let’s look at some questions and answers that can help you prepare for your visit.
When is the Best Time/Month to Pheasant & Quail Hunt?
If you are an avid bird hunter anytime is a good time to hunt but some considerations need to be made. Our upland season begins in September and ends the middle of April.
September – it is usually still very green; vegetation is thick, and the temperatures can be on the warm side. So, if you are planning your hunt during this time bring along cool and comfortable clothing and lightweight boots, hunting vest and a mesh style hat that will let some air circulation to help keep you comfortable (hat must be hunter Orange by law). If you are hunting at the lodge, this is a great time to bring your spouse or other family members along as there are several local fall festivals and activities to enjoy at the lodge such as sporting clays, UTV rentals, fishing, horseback riding, hiking and more!
October – hunts are generally more comfortable from a temperature standpoint. By about the middle of the month we have had some killing frosts and the vegetation is browning and is not as lush. Again, comfortable clothing, nothing really heavy will suffice during this time. You might also bring some rain gear just in case a shower pops up. If you enjoy fall colors, this is the month to book a hunt at the lodge! Typically, our fall colors peak from Mid-October through early November.
November – now we are getting frost routinely in the mornings and we may even get a light snow (rarely). Prepare for this time by bringing a little heavier clothing and boots but remember you can layer your clothing so that if the temperature does rise significantly, you can remove a layer or two and still be just fine. Better to have too many clothes than not enough. Remember though that as you go out into the field and walk for a while you will warm up. Many times, the mornings are cool, and the afternoons are pleasant. November & December is the perfect time to book an upland/ waterfowl combo hunt. This has become one of our lodge guests’ favorite hunts as it allows a variety of wingshooting and species, all in one day!
December – the beginning of winter is now here, and yet again heavier clothing and waterproof and insulated boots are good to have. We can have snow, or it may be very pleasant in the 50-degree range. Personally, I like to hunt best when there is a morning frost that melts by mid-morning leaving a layer of moisture which helps the dogs locate birds and then by mid-day the temperature is in the 40–50-degree range. Birds hold well, dogs are very comfortable, and this makes for a great day of hunting.
January and February – similar to December but perhaps a little colder and snow is always a possibility. Again, heavier clothing and good boots are in order. But I can remember guiding many times on Martin Luther King Jr. or Presidents’ Day and it was 60 degrees. You just never know when hunting in the Mid-West. Enjoy Canadian and specklebelly goose combo hunts in January, as we get towards the end of February and throughout the month of March, enjoy a conservation, no limit, no plugs snow goose hunt!
March and April – warmer weather starts to return and the cover is still sufficient to hold birds but depending on how much snow has occurred over the winter months the cover can become sparser than in the October-January time period. Many times, we focus on fence rows and areas that have extra cover. Many times, you can find the birds concentrated in certain spots. Vegetation is starting to green up and the birds in the field are starting to get their spring thing going and it can be an interesting time to see and hear birds crowing while looking for their mates.
What gauge gun should I bring for upland hunting?
Personal preference and whatever gauge you feel most comfortable with. We recommend 7 ½ shot as being the size of choice. Typically, you will be shooting birds that get up fairly close as the dogs will hold them until you make the flush. So that size shot is very adequate to take out any Upland Bird. Some hunters come with 20- or 28-gauge guns simply because they are lighter and more comfortable to carry in the field. These gauges are fine bird guns and are more than enough to take out a bird on the rise. We do sell ammunition at the lodge and will be happy to provide you with whatever you require. Note that in Illinois when being transported it is the law that all guns are in either a case or a soft sock that can be tied closed. We do have gun socks available in the event that your case is too large or cumbersome to take into the field.
How far do we typically walk during a morning and afternoon upland hunt?
We have checked a number of times and the average we walk is about 5 miles per day. So, to prepare before you arrive it may be beneficial to do some walking/hiking to get into condition for your hunt. But remember we can tailor the walking part to whatever makes you feel comfortable. We have many hunters each year that are limited in their ability to walk. We always make sure they feel comfortable and enjoy their hunt.
What is a typical day and hunt like?
Typically, when we hunt, we will leave the trucks and go out in fields of milo strips with mowed paths for easy walking. We can pace the hunt to your preference. Some folks like a slow pace while others prefer a more robust one. After about 1 hour of hunting, we return to the trucks and unload birds, switch out dogs, relax for a few minutes and get something to drink. After a short break we go out and hunt some additional areas that we did not cover during the previous period. Typically, we pick our guests up at the lodge at 9:00 am and drive to the bird fields. Around 11:30 we head back to the lodge for a leisurely lunch and rest. At 2:00 pm we leave the lodge and go to another area and hunt until about 5:00 pm, depending on when it gets too dark to shoot safely. We go back to the lodge and dinner is served typically around 7:00 pm. If you are doing a multiple day hunt, we go through the same process for any following days.
Does the lodge sell the appropriate hunting licenses?
We have found that it is much easier for you, our guests, to go directly to the Illinois DNR HERE >> and purchase the necessary license/permits/tags before you come to the lodge. This will be much more convenient for you to prepare ahead for the documents you will need.
Can I do different hunts during my stay at Heartland Lodge?
Many of our guests opt to do a combination hunt. If the season for waterfowl is in, you may hunt waterfowl in the morning in the Mississippi river bottoms that are only a few miles from the lodge. After a morning hunt on the largest waterfowl flyway in the US you will return to the lodge for lunch, and you may do an Upland hunt in the afternoon. This is a great way to combine and enjoy two different hunting styles and types of game. During deer season you can enjoy a couple days of Upland Hunting and then do a deer hunt if that is what you would enjoy. We are flexible and we want you to enjoy your time with us and we will do our utmost to make your stay at Heartland Lodge the best that it can be.
How do I take my birds home?
Birds are processed, vacuum packed and frozen so that you can take them with you when you leave. It is a good idea to bring a cooler if it is convenient for you. The lodge does sell soft sided coolers for those who may require one.
I could continue but I will stop for now. If you have any questions or concerns or need any help or information you can contact us, and we will be happy to help you in any way possible. One last note, many people ask if their significant other, who is not a hunter, can join the hunt. Absolutely, this is a great way to introduce people to the out of doors and the hunting process. Many folks walk along and take some memorable photos of the hunt. They enjoy doing this just as much as their hunters enjoy their activity.
Upland Hunting Guide
Last Updated: May 26th, 2023