Reige: Pheasant hunting and fishing have a lot in common

Published 8:46 pm Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Structure is very important whether you are catching fish or hunting pheasants. The similarities are dramatic when you compare the structures, some of these are breaklines, transition zones, inside curves, and funnel down areas. Other similarities that are directly related to structure are cold fronts, wind, pressure and the use of locators. Don’t get me wrong, there hasn’t been a locator invented yet that will give out a signal telling the hunter that twenty feet away there is a bird. Although, there are other things that the hunter can use to locate pheasants.

First of all, let’s take a look at some common structural elements that both the fisherman and the hunter might use. A breakline might be the first place you look for your quarry. As a fisherman you might realize that the breakline is the area that divides one area from another, usually in the form of a drop off, weed bed or a depression in the floor of the river or lake. A breakline for a pheasant hunter, is the edge of a field, it might be where the weeds start and the crops stop, or where the corn and soybeans meet. It might be uncultivated lanes along the fencerows, or the fencerows themselves. These breakline areas are also areas of transition. This transitional zone is something that the fisherman uses to find and locate fish. When rock turns to sand or where sand turns to mud you will find a transitional area where fish like to congregate. Likewise, this holds true when you are trying to locate pheasants. The key area is the structure within the structure. In large management areas it might be the darker weeds, a lone tree, a patch of willows. The birds use this transitional area for wind protection, roosts and a vantage point to see and hear advancing predators. If the transitional area is in a roadside ditch, or a draw, it will be in the form of bramble patches or rock piles. Remember, these are areas that two distinct type of cover comes together. Whether it is fish or pheasant, you will double your chances when you look for transitional areas and breaklines.

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Inside curves and funneled down areas are easy for the hunter and the fisherman to find. An inside curve to a fisherman, is the break and curve of a transitional area. In other words, it is a depression in the weed bed or a pocket in a breakline, a “little indentation”. The hunter can identify the inside curve by looking for an area that is along an edge that forms a break from the wind and will provide protection from the elements. In the morning and early afternoon, pheasants like to loaf in the inside curve. On sunny autumn days they can be found soaking up sunlight on the warmer south sides of grain fields. Here, too, most birds will be found near the edge of the inside curve rather than far into the field.

The funneled down areas, are the place that fisherman like to look for fish because they are more concentrated in a limited area. These funnel down areas are below dams or necked down areas or narrow areas of a lake. The fisherman can identify these areas as barriers also. Fish will stop and rest before moving on, or they may concentrate before more fish come along and they can move on as a school. The hunter will find funneled down areas in a variety of forms. The hunter when hunting a large slough or a management area should look for the little fingers that branch off from the structure. These “fingers” are funneled down areas because pheasants when pressured tend to move out of the way of the advancing predator. They will move into these areas to wait until the danger has past. If the hunter forces the pheasant into this barrier and they have run out of room to run, then the pheasants will flush. The hunter should always hunt all of the cover available. Many of the pheasants that inhabit the area can be found right on the very end of the funneled down areas. I can remember hunting with a good friend, Jim and I took three nice roosters off a place at the end of a funneled down area not larger than a washtub.

The fisherman knows the importance of a good locator. The locator is his eyes to the structure and it tells him that there are fish present. The hunter also, has locators that he can use to tell him where pheasants might be. They are his eyes to structure and the presence of game. One of the most important locators is a dog. Dogs are the single most significant type of locator that a person can have. The dog signals the hunter that a bird is present, and they will move toward the bird. Some dogs point, flush and retrieve. If you are lucky enough to have a locator that will do this, then the hunter is more advanced than the fisherman. Understand the effects of pressure, not only hunting but barometric pressure. When the hunting gets tough where do the pheasants all head for? Look around, is there an area that has not been harvested? Is there an area that has been posted? Can you talk to the landowner and get permission to hunt the non-pressured area? Try some kindness, don’t hesitate to offer some help around the farm for hunting privileges, or barter some food for allowing you to hunt on those lands that few get on. Above all, please ask permission before entering land owned by another, not only is it a law, but it is good common courtesy. Barometric pressure is a very important factor to consider, when the weather is the worst, pheasant hunting is the best. Rainy days and roosters go hand-in-hand. When you would like to be home in bed or curled up by the fire so would the pheasants. You will find them at home, dense cover, away from the elements and they are prime for harvesting. A rule of thumb is, when the pressure is low pheasant hunting is high. Fishermen have been using pressure for years. Most fishermen know that fish bite better before a storm and sometimes during a storm. Therefore, a barometer might be useful to both the fisherman and the hunter. Wind is yet another form of locator that hunters and fisherman overlook. Instead of fighting the wind fisherman should use it as an advantage to fish structure. They should move along structure using drift socks and their electric motors. The hunter should use the wind to improve the chances of locating game. If the wind is strong, remember that the birds usually try to stay out of the wind, but if pushed they will use the wind to gain lift and then go with the wind to escape. Hunt into the wind if at all possible. It will allow your dog to scent better and cover the noise that you make walking in the field.

To be a good outdoorsman remember to use structure to your advantage. Look for these structural elements and you will be more productive in your pursuit of game. You will need to be on the edge to improve your chances. The cutting edge of transition.