Pheasant hunting provides 2 million Americans with treasured memories each autumn. If you're a first-time pheasant hunter, here are some initial steps to take for a lifetime of enjoyment in the field.
Step 1: Hunter Education
The purpose of hunter education is to develop the knowledge, skills, and attitude necessary to become a safe and responsible hunter. In addition, most states require individuals to complete hunter education courses before issuing a valid hunting license. Typically, individuals meet these needs by attending a traditional, instructor led course including classroom lectures and field/range experiences (check with your state's natural resource agency for available classes). In today's society, hunter education courses are also available online.
Step 2: Find a mentor
There's no substitute for going out into the field with an experienced pheasant hunter to show you the ropes. State wildlife agencies are good resources to connect beginning hunters with mentors. For additional resources, contact your local chapter of Pheasants Forever and ask if they are hosting a mentored hunt in your area.
Step 3: Gear up
- Become knowledgeable with state laws and regulations regarding the harvest of game, blaze orange requirements, season dates, and bag limits.
- Reliable field gear, such as boots, hats, vests, chaps, socks and protective gear, is essential for upland bird hunting. Don't know where to shop? Check out the Pheasants Forever Marketplace and get outfitted today!
- Research weather conditions and be prepared with several layers of clothing for an enjoyable experience in the field.
- Be comfortable with your choice of firearm—most gauges of shotguns will be effective for a bagging a rooster including .410, 28-gauge, 20-gauge and 12-gauge options.
- Be aware of where you'll be hunting in regards to the use of lead or steel shot. Some areas require that only steel shot be used. In both cases, Federal Premium Ammunition's Pheasants Forever shells are always a great choice.
step 4: get a good map
Depending on the state you are hunting in, some areas that offer excellent hunting can be extremely large in acreage. Enjoy your hunting trips by knowing where you are located and where you want to go for pursuing upland game birds. Find a map!
Step 5: Know Where to Go
Step 6: Know How to Hunt
- Be ready in the morning as soon as legal shooting hours begin.
- Hunt the "Golden Hour"—the last hour of the day; birds move out of crop fields and into grass for roosting.
- Hunt after Thanksgiving. Late-season hunting can be very productive and a lot of fun.
- Be quiet—pheasants will bust out of the area with the sound of approaching hunters, especially late-season.
- Respect other hunters who are enjoying our state lands—don't wreck a quality hunt for another party (and yourself) by walking in on them, find another public area or knock on a door—you'll be glad you did.
- Dogs—follow and trust their instincts, hunting dogs will work to find your birds.
Step 7: Read the Habitat
- Not all land was created equal as habitat for pheasants, so hunt the good stuff before burning all your energy.
- Edges—read the contours of the land, looking for places where habitat changes, such as crops, trees, shrubs, cattails, ditches, and fence lines.
- When the snow flies, the game changes. Find the thermal cover—cattails and shelter belts are king.
- Food plots—if undisturbed, food plots can provide phenomenal pheasant hunting opportunities.
- Bring your hip boots or waders—if you cross water barriers that block most hunters, you may find your way to hunting utopia!