By Kara Wattunen
So you’ve seen the magazine articles, watched the shows and are officially hooked on wanting to try pheasant hunting! Just like other types of hunting, where to actually start might be hard to find. I’ll cover three key areas that are essential to having a safe and successful time in the field. From out of the field preparation to the day of your hunt, these pointers will be sure to help!
Many women’s first thought goes right to gear. Being truly comfortable while hunting is essential! Most types of pheasant hunts are in some sort of cover. This might include sloughs filled with cattails or fields with heavy grass. Your footwear needs to be sturdy, with good traction, and I would highly recommend some sort of water repellency or resistance. My go-to boot is the Cabela’s Women’s Copperhead Snake Boot. This boot is a taller boot, which also protects your calves from debris.
Pheasant hunting is all about covering ground. You will want to have pants, bibs or chaps that you are able to move freely and not get stuck in the brush with. Chaps can go on easily over jeans and attach to your belt. One benefit of chaps is you can purchase ones with a built-in gaiter. This adds more protection to your feet as well. If you are looking for pants, you will need to find either a brush or field pant. Available through Orvis are two pants that might suit you. They offer a field pant, which is a bit lighter in weight, and an upland briar pant, which is a bit sturdier for heavier brush. If you have trouble finding the right fit, Covey Charleston can repurpose your own pants into custom field pants by adding briar-proof fabric, available in lighter or heavier weights as well.
Make sure you know what the regulations are in your state for how much blaze orange you need to wear while in the field. Most hunters opt to wear a vest for their hunter orange. These vests can come equipped with many different options, such as shell pockets, water bladder sections and, of course, a place to slide your birds into. They can range from $12 to $200, so it’s just a matter of choosing the price range and options you’d like. Most importantly when searching for a vest, the fit is key. When you are walking and need to shoulder your gun quickly, getting caught in the fabric will slow your speed down and could cause you to miss the bird. There are some brands that offer vests specifically cut for women.
Securing land to hunt is a very challenging task. When asking for permission to hunt private land, you won’t always hear a “yes.” Do not let this discourage you, and don’t forget to utilize public land.
Public land can be great! Most states have a list of management areas, as well as hunting regulations for each one. You will want to look for field or grassland to hunt. A large mistake new hunters make is hunting too close to marshy areas, which are more for ducks. This can be incredibly tough terrain, making the pheasants sit tight, if they are there at all. Stick to fields or tall dry grass first.
What’s left? The day of the hunt! Your blood is pumping and the excitement levels are bursting through the roof, so hit the field!
Line up about 8 to 10 feet apart from your hunting partners before entering the habitat. This line will act as a barrier, pushing the birds forward or forcing them to fly, giving you a shot opportunity. If you have someone who is more comfortable with a more challenging shot, place him or her on an end of the line. For shooters who are a little more hesitant, place them more toward the middle, allowing them more time.
If you are unsure of the swing range in your position, hold your arms out in front of you, a little wider than your shoulders. This is your swing range. It should slightly overlap with each hunter on either side of you.
Once all shooters are in place, making sure your outside edge is at the very outer edge of the field, start to move at a walk into the field. Move too fast, birds will move fast as well; move too slow, the birds will know something isn’t right. Keep watching your fellow hunters to make sure your line stays as straight as possible.
When nearing the end of your first pass, you will start to make a pivot motion with your line, with the person on the inner most of the field. Once your pivot is over, all hunters should be facing the way they came from in a whole new section. Continue this movement until you have covered the full field or filled your limits!
Now that you have a few starting places for a pheasant hunting adventure, gather your friends and get ready! Pheasant hunting is much more enjoyable with a field full of laughs and gunpowder.
Kara Wattunen is a freelance writer, blogger and photographer. Currently residing in Minnesota, she finds herself in the fields hunting or on the water chasing big walleyes and all other fish. Kara also is a tournament angler with Bass Pro Shops. Her favorite type of hunting is waterfowl in the flooded timber. Click to read a past story from Kara’s first pheasant hunt.