“The Flush” is my rush. Just about every weekend I spend at least a portion of it chasing roosters.
Along the way, I have learned a few things to do and a few things not to do.
When it comes to hunting late-season pheasants that is. More on that in just a minute.
There’s a big difference between early-season pheasant hunting and late season. They say 75% of all peasants are harvested during the first couple of weekends of the season. Two reasons for that. Number one the birds are just not that smart and a lot of first-year roosters are shot. The latter is because most pheasant hunters hang it up after the first couple of weekends.
By the time Thanksgiving rolls around, you have mostly late-season savvy birds remaining. Most pheasant hunters have long since put away their shotguns for ice fishing gear or watching the Vikings break their hearts on Sunday.
This season’s record snowfall in early November has made late-season pheasant hunting even more of a challenge. Walking in the snow up to your waist adds a whole new dimension. It’s not for the faint of heart, and I mean literally. You better be in shape if you hope to shoot a few birds.
Here’s how to stack the odds in your favor during difficult late-season conditions.
First in foremost. Put a sock in it. Quiet yelling “rooster” or “hen”. A pheasant’s number one sense is hearing. I see pheasant shows on TV or on YouTube all the time with the so-called experts doing this. Then they wonder why all the birds flush 100 yards in front of them. You can get away with that during the early season, but not as much in December. Hopefully, by this point in the season, you know the difference between a rooter and a hen.
“Hush Hunting” is essential.
My friends and I use simple hand signals with each other and even the dog. My lab Callie knows if I put my hand up to sit and stay. A simple wave back towards me and she will come. Start doing this and you will notice more birds holding. Trust me.
Next, always try to walk into the wind if possible, but there are times to break this rule. Late-season roosters are smart and have their escape routes already planned out. Get to know these routes and mix it up. Come in from the other side or try to surround a piece of land you are walking.
Be sure you are working the cover slowly. The birds are grouped up and you would be surprised how many birds you walk right by. Even with a good dog. Add deep snow to the situation and you need to go even slower. The birds will dig into their snow bunkers and at times it is very difficult to flush them out.
Use the snow cover to your advantage by looking for tracks. You’ll see their patterns by doing this, and you learn their escape routes during the process. With deep snow like this, you want to make sure you are being as productive as possible. At the very least, if I don’t see tracks going into cover I don’t even walk it. Not with 4, and 5-foot snow drifts. You need to save your energy for both yourself and your dog.
My last tip isn’t for everyone but it helps stack the odds in your favour.
Ditch the “orange”. Right now you’re saying, “what”? A pheasant’s second-best sense is their eyesight. After deer season is over, I’m wearing my duck hunting camo while hunting roosters. I only do this if I’m hunting by myself or with one of my experienced friends. Safety is always a priority, so if I was hunting with a group, I’ll have my orange on. Otherwise, I try to blend in with my surroundings to help me get that much closer to a wily rooster. This is legal in North Dakota by the way.
There you have it, a few do’s and don’ts to help you bag a late-season pheasant or two. Hunting pheasants in the late season is my favourite. It’s not for everyone, it’s a lot of physical work, but the rewards can be great.
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