Riege: Hunting the Golden Hour for Pheasants

Published 5:51 pm Wednesday, October 29, 2014

By Bob & Ginny Riege

There is not better time than the final 60 minutes of the day to hit a public hunting area for pheasants, and it is in that golden hour that an individual hunter can shine.

Some hunters I know will walk to the far corner of a public area just before the sunset to sit, wait and watch for pheasants flying in to roost for the night. This spot-n—stalk approach is made possible simply because a lone hunter can work quickly and quietly without spooking the birds. Also, the predictability of pheasant behavior at the end of the day ends itself will for the individual hunter who can target small chunks of roosting cover.

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My favorite time to hunt pheasants on public ground, through, is after the season’s first snowfall when the habits of wildlife finally show themselves through telltale markings in the blanket of white.

Laddy (my Irish Setter) and I hit one of our favorite WPA’s last year at such a time and save for the fresh sign of deer, rabbits and pheasant, ours were the first tracks to fall on the snow amidst the cattails and heavy grass.

We hadn’t worked more than 75 yard from the truck before a long tailed rooster flushed wild from the cover just out of range. Fighting the urge to move quickly toward the area where the bird had taken off, I kept Laddy close in front of me and we continued to work quietly ahead in hopes other birds would hold tight in the snow.

Our patience was rewarded with a power flush of several hens and one rooster that I knocked down in the canary grass bordering the wetland. The only other bird we saw that morning was another rooster that Laddy flushed from its hide in the cattails.

The bird that Laddy retrieved was a dark chested, long spurred brute that had likely survived a hunting season or two. Finding a bird like that on a late season public ground hunt seemed to add a special sheen to his bold, beautiful colors. He was a true trophy.

Hunt with a good dog. No other single measure will do as much to improve your hunting. Dogs are extremely important for finding, flushing and retrieval of game. Pick a dog that will work well in a variety of cover and can be controlled. Training is at least as important as selection of the breed. A properly trained dog will hunt enthusiastically and be under control. During your dogs training, try controlling him with hand signals, avoid whistles, and voice commands. Try moving slowly and quietly with your hunting companions through the fields. All that smart rooster has to hear is the sound of the slam of a car door and the sound of a couple of hunters, with whistles and bells on the dogs to take flight into the next county.

Look for out of the way places that have scrubby trees and water. These elements will signify that pheasants are probably present. Don’t hesitate to put on a pair of Cabela’s waders when hunting the marshy areas. A pheasant can sit on a tuft of grass along the edge surrounded by water and feel totally safe, because by now they realize that most pheasant hunters don’t like to get wet, especially when it is cold outside and there is snow on the ground. To flush birds late in the season you must hunt long and hard. Block all the exits and take special pains to move quietly. In extremely bitter weather you may need to urge the dogs to work cautiously, for the pheasants will often sit tight with their feathers clamped against their bodies in a way that prevents the scent from spreading. Remember that late seasoned roosters are bunched up, often grouped by sex. You can hunt almost all day, and then the next foot you put down can put a day’s limit of roosters in the air all at once.