Putting your boots on in a parking area with the sun just rising over a field, you can see opportunity with every patch of open grass and hedgerow. This is how so many of these hunts begin. When you load some shells in your orange vest, sometimes tattered with generations of thorns, grab your shotgun and start walking toward the tall grass it’s almost impossible not to get a sense of the tradition. Not much has changed, this is how previous generations would have looked, what they would have used, how they would have hunted.
The tactics are simple. There are no calls, no decoys, no waiting for hours on end. Look for where the birds may be hiding in the thick cover and move to flush them into the air for a chance to take one of the most popular game birds in Pennsylvania, the ring-necked pheasant.
If you know of anyone looking to get into hunting, or if you’re looking for an accessible hunting experience, this is one of the best hunts for anyone of any skill level. First off, it’s as social or as solo as you would want to make it. Mostly, it’s a group hunt with around 4 hunters per group. Staying together hunting in a horizontal line as a tactic and a means of safety when working your way through a field of bird cover.
It’s a great chance for casual conversation with your group as you stroll along on the lookout for the larger upland game bird. When flushing birds, be ready for the instant chaos that is a skyrocketing pheasant out of the grass or hedgerow before it begins flying off in the opposite direction. Be sure to know your shotgun so you can calmly take the gun’s safety off, shoulder the gun, and aim for the shot. You’ll have time to make the shot if you know your gun and know your abilities. Don’t ever take a shot at a bird low to the ground or if you’re not confident about if you can cleanly hit it.
One of the unique features of pheasant hunting is the use of bird dogs to find, flush, and retrieve birds. Those hunters who make the commitment of bringing a bird dog into their lives know the around the clock responsibility that it is. If you are able to hunt with someone who has a bird dog, by all means don’t waste the chance. More importantly, be respectful of the owner and how they hunt with their dog. Dogs, and their owners for that matter, all have different personalities and it’s worth asking a few questions before you get in the field about how they would like to hunt. Again, safety should be the first thought on everyone’s minds for humans, and dogs.
Pennsylvania does require the purchase of a pheasant hunting stamp ($26.90) in addition to a state hunting license. Most of the birds found on hunting lands in the state have been hatched, raised, and released by the game commission. The price of the stamp is to help offset the costs of operations putting the birds out for hunters.
If you’re asking why we don’t have wild pheasants, the game commission has been working on that. Several areas of the state have been zoned off to no hunting. This is an attempt the get released populations of wild pheasants trapped and brought here from the western United States to take hold on their own.
With seasons in October through February here in Pennsylvania, it’s worth working through the brush to break up your hunting season looking for these birds. Don’t miss the chance at making some great memories hunting one of the tastiest game birds around.