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HuntFishSD Blog

Dakota Pheasant Guide Pheasants and Hunters

Hunting in small groups versus large groups

Hunting in small groups versus large groups. Success can be achieved. Focus on the public land opportunities around Aberdeen with state access and access through the Aberdeen Pheasant Coalition.

Pheasant season has become synonymous with many things.  Blaze orange, extra long pheasant tails, and shotgun shells.  Another image that people see when they think of pheasant season is a long line of blaze orange clad hunters, evenly spaced, slowly walking through a field of row crops.  While this image is fairly common, especially during early season hunts in the Aberdeen area, it is not the only way to bag birds in Brown County.  The success of large and small groups varies, and depends on many factors.  Today we’ll dive into the pros and cons of hunting in large and small groups, and how you can use numbers (both large and small) to your advantage while staying in Aberdeen.  We certainly won’t be advocating for one type of hunt over the other because much of what makes them valuable is personal preference, tradition, individual abilities, and other factors not related to the technicalities of the hunt.  But knowing when and where to use large and small groups can make you a better hunter, and will help you think differently about chasing these wily roosters when opening day finally comes.  We wish it would just get here already!    

Large Groups (Six or more hunters):  Driving birds with sheer numbers can be a very effective means of bagging a few, especially when walking row crops like corn or grain sorghum.  The idea is to force the birds to one side of the field by making them run away from the line.  They will stay hidden until the end when they are forced to fly.  Blockers (hunters waiting at the end of the field) are used to prevent the birds from coming out of the field before the line catches up to them.  Any birds that fly out early will be taken by hunters in the line or those blocking at the end.  Everyone will have a chance at those birds that hold out until the end of the drive.  This works best in large fields, early in the season when birds are holding tight to the ground, and when you have a large number of hunters available.  Dogs need to be on the same page with these types of hunts.  One rogue dog can ruin an entire drive by getting out too far and spooking birds out of the middle where no hunter has a chance to shoot.  Wing walkers are typically placed 50 yards or so ahead of the line to prevent birds from coming out the side of the field while the drive is taking place.

Pros:  

  • Working large fields in a short amount of time.
  • Many shooting opportunities for hunters and blockers.  More hunters means more chances to bag birds when they fly.
  • Very exciting hunt, especially if a lot of birds hold until the end.
  • Great opportunity for good dogs to show off their retrieving skills.
  • Good camaraderie and storytelling opportunities throughout the day!
  • Opportunities for all hunters to participate (young, old…skilled or novice)
  • Not much strategy required.  Start on one end, and work your way to the other.
  • Blockers available to stop birds from flying out the sides, or at the end.

Cons:  

  • More hunters means more bb’s flying.  Can be dangerous if people do not follow the rules.
  • Difficult passing shots.  These birds will get up and going, especially if they have any wind at their back.  They can get high in a hurry, too, making some shots very difficult.  This can lead to wounded or lost birds if hunters are not diligent with their aim or shot selection.
  • All dogs must work well together.  That does not always happen when large groups of people are present.  
  • These hunts are typically very slow and methodical.  Can be difficult for hunters to stay in line, especially if the cover is too thick to see. 

Small Groups (Five or fewer):  Sometimes, having fewer people can actually offer you an advantage when it comes to pheasant hunting.  Sure, you don’t have the large numbers to drive big fields, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be efficient with the hunters you have.  Small group hunting is all about strategy.  It’s about knowing the birds and how they will utilize the habitat to their advantage.  Of course, this applies to small sections of land as well as large plots.  Time of day, weather, cover, and early/late season will all impact how you approach a hunting situation with a small group.  One of the best things about hunting in small groups is the freedom individual hunters have to vary direction and speed.  Of course, being able to identify, mock and ridicule the unfortunate soul who misses a bird is icing on the cake!  

Pros:  

  • You have more room to roam, the structure of the drive is not as important as the strategy that is used to find the birds.
  • You can move faster and cover more ground when there are fewer people to account for.  Great advantage during late season hunts.
  • Easier to keep track of all hunters in your party and find advantageous positioning. 
  • There are fewer people to compete with for shots. 
  • You can successfully hunt smaller pieces of habitat and make sure all hunters have an important role.  
  • Not relegated to a small location.  Can still hunt larger pieces of land effectively.

Cons: 

  • Fewer hunters means less/no blocking.  It can be difficult to corral wild birds, especially during late season hunts when they are flighty.  Wild pheasants will always seem to find the spot where no hunters are holding.
  • Need to know the lay of the land before initiating your strategy.  This may require a bit of reconnaissance or scouting. 
  • Makes hunting some areas impossible or very difficult.  
  • Tough chasing birds in row crops early in the season.   

Whether you have a small group of hunters, or a larger one, the Aberdeen area has something for you.  Give us a call if we can help you find the perfect spot for your hunting party.  

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