How to avoid common pitfalls of new (and veteran) hunters
Throughout your career as a bird hunter, invariably, the pheasants are going to get the better of you. Many mistakes are made on the way to become proficient at chasing out wiley ringneck pheasants. If you are a beginning hunter, or a savvy vet, there are a few tips that might help you avoid some of those pitfall mistakes that can make pheasant hunting a bit more frustrating.
1 – Don’t forget to block.
Whether you have three hunters or 10, blockers play an important role when chasing down roosters. There are a lot of holes in our offense/defense, and if you think the birds won’t find them, you’re crazier than your friends say you are. If you are walking a shelter belt, be sure to put two hunters ahead on the flanks and a few at the end. Work together to plug holes where you see them, and have a gameplan ready for when birds begin to fly. Blocking will make a big difference in your day.
2- Don’t assume public lands are useless after opening weekend
Public lands are often discounted after opening weekend. Hunters and dogs stomping around on public land will certainly drive birds to less pressured habitat that suits their needs. But as the season wears on, conditions and available habitat will change for the birds. Crops will come out and cold weather will drive birds together where cover exists. Many of our public lands around Aberdeen are managed specifically for habitat. Keep them on your “to hunt” list throughout the season, and pay those birds a visit once conditions begin to change.
3 – Dress appropriately
What does our clothing selection have to do with bird hunting? It really is a good question. It has a lot to do with our hunting in that it is a very important factor in determining our comfort level in the field. Too often, hunters overdress for a long walk and end up overheating while chasing down birds. That sweat will really cool you off later in the day, especially if that South Dakota wind holds to tradition. Similarly, not having a good base layer or a good set of gloves can render a hunter unable to shoot to the best of their abilities. Bring along an extra pair of socks and boots if you can. Anyone who has stomped around cattail sloughs will tell you why. It sucks walking in wet boots all day!
4 – Follow your dog
Their nose is better than your intuition…every time. You follow them into the field, make sure you trust them throughout. Sometimes this means hunting a field in a non-traditional way, but that’s ok as long as your four-legged friend is leading the charge. Follow their nose to find more birds in the fall.
5 – Sometimes stealth is your friend
Late season hunts yield weary birds with fewer places to hide. When crops go out and the snow begins to fly, the slam of a pickup door can send flocks into a frenzy. Know when to lower the volume and be more like a ninja in the field to get more late season birds in your bag. Walk softly and keep that scattergun at the ready for late season birds sitting tight.
6 – Take your time
This may seem elementary, but most hunters miss because they rush their shots. A bird gets up within range and that rush really gets to you! You don’t want that bird to get too far away (or fly in front of a friend for that matter). With over-unders and side-by-sides become more popular, two shots is all you’re going to get. Better make them count by putting that bead on the bird before that trigger finger gets to work. Take your time and make a good shot!
7 – It’s not all about a limit
We are lucky to have the amazing bird hunting we do in Aberdeen. We are fortunate to have stewards that care for the land and the animals that use it. Be thankful that you have an opportunity to hunt in such a special place, wish special people/dogs by your side. Appreciate the resilient cockbird pheasant for their ability to survive and thrive in the harsh South Dakota ecosystem. Every flush should be a celebration. Don’t sweat the limit.