Pheasant Hunters - Steven
The enclosed pictures are of my pup’s first pheasant hunt. He is 8 months old on this, his first wild bird hunt. It was a great hunt.
We took a couple of days and the long ride to [location deleted]. He had never seen a pen raised pheasant or quail ever having been trained on pigeons and chukars.
Our first morning we picked a spot to hunt, it was cold and calm with heavy frost. Within a short while he had a wild flush hen that I commanded whoa on and that was all he required to know we were pheasant hunting. He must have been in the right spot to catch the scent.
His first point was in short grass, high tail, front leg up, slight crouch in front with the morning light highlighting the edges, would have been a great picture. I can still see that image in my mind. When I walked in it was a rooster and the pup held as trained through flush, shot and drop. The rooster hit the ground with a thud and I was happy to have him get his first wild bird. I released the pup that took off at a dead run to where the rooster fell with I following only to my surprise to flush a rooster at the same spot and no dead bird to be found. I was so confident the rooster was dead I just watched the bird fly. I cursed my poor shooting having been distracted and probably overly excited about my dog pointing wild birds.
A short walk and a second point. Up came a rooster. What luck to get a rooster and not a hen - again. I shot and missed. Cursing myself for failing to follow through on the dog’s good work.
Another short walk, a picture perfect point. Another rooster, a miss, with the pup holding steady as the bird continued to fly off in the distance. My dog was working great. He had good run and worked close. Pointed nicely and stay steady until commanded release. The problem as I began to seek answers for my poor shooting beyond being excited about a new dog was probably directed accurately at having shot too many slow flying pen raised chukar during his training. What should have been an exceptional hunt with three out of three rooster points was perfect in every regard except for me. We walked the rest of that spot and had some wild flushes both long and short range, no more points.
Driving to the next spot I said the mantra: “Shoot ahead of the bird get the bird.” several dozen times.
At the next spot stepping from the truck produced a wild flush rooster. Walking on some more we had more wild flushes of hens and rooster. Getting down into a little draw the pup goes on point. Again I walk in concentrating to shoulder the gun well and shoot ahead of the bird.
Luck again, a rooster. That now makes four consecutive points and four roosters. The bird immediately fly’s around a small tree and away not allowing for a shot. But that is not all bad. What also happened when I walked into flush was we were in a pheasant hot spot. Roosters and hens starting popping up in front, beside, behind both the pup and I with the pup holding steady allowing only his head to spin around to greet each wild flush. It was impossible to count how many birds there were. I estimate 30 and that is probably conservative. We went on.
A short while later another point. Our luck held, it was a rooster and this time I dropped it dead in sight of the pup. I felt relief.
We went on in the same field and after a bit of a walk another point. Another rooster now making it six in a row. I dropped that one and now feel the pup is a pheasant hunting dog and all the time training from spring, through summer to fall has paid off. Then another point, another rooster and now the story as I write it is taking on mythical proportions of a rooster pointing only dog. And, that would hold for a while anyways.
The next point, another rooster, shot with a poof of feathers, the bird drops. When we get to where the bird fell no rooster was to be found. The pup works a short track and then nothing. Meanwhile between these points we had probably another 8 to 10 wild flushes.
Working our way to the far field edge the pup goes on point. Another rooster, shot dropped the bird and we have 3 in the bag out of 9 rooster points. Back from where I am from we would not even see 9 roosters during the entire season. Our main hunt is for grouse in thick woods where we would walk all day to hear more grouse flush than we would see, get shots at fewer than we actually did see and after all these years my best day ever on grouse was three in the bag. Now on this dog’s first pheasant hunt he has had 9 points and if I could have shot better we would have been done long before now. That is probably a good thing I did miss so much as he did get double the experience.
By this time the frost had not only melted long before, the sun is well up in a clear sky and I have shed my heavy clothing now hunting in a shirt, in November! It had gone from 29 degrees when we started hunting to something that had to be near 70 and the air was dry. I could feel how dry the air was in my throat and on my face. And, it was calm. I had already shoveled snow back home and now I was in a T shirt and vest.
We headed back to the truck having some more wild flushes and an increasing number of points with no birds. By the time we made it back to the truck I was sweating a bit, the dog was slowing down and we both needed a break. Over these two fields we had seen many, many pheasant and my dog gave me a satisfaction that only can be earned from having trained him myself.
The next morning we headed off to another spot and while we did not find any pheasant that would hold for point we found four coveys over a spot that took us six hours to walk. The pup same as before was commanded whoa on the first covey that flushed at our feet when we both were standing but 3 feet apart. He found the other three coveys easy and held steady through drop. Then we had trouble.
It was warm requiring only a light long sleeve shirt. While he could find and point coveys, singles were another matter entirely. The single quail would flush at my feet with the dog apparently not catching enough scent off the singles to point. That problem was also when the covey flushed I shot and dropped a quail in cover that was not all that thick although the cover seemed to consume the bird. The pup also had trouble finding the dropped quail and we left three in the field. Then we took a break for the rest of the day to recover a bit. We went driving around looking at the country side with the truck’s windows rolled down as it was that warm, in November!
The next day we hunted another spot finding a good number of pheasants over a variety of cover quality. The pup decided he would try chasing some of the pheasants that seemed too ready to flush. I put on the e-collar and it took only a small number of low level stimulations to cease the chasing behavior. We had only one rooster hold for point, luckily we bagged that one. We found three quail coveys repeating the previous day’s performance having trouble with singles and finding shot quail. This day grew warmer than the previous day and we again took the last half of the afternoon off to recover a bit.
Our last day we woke to find a warm sun and a cold wind. The plan was to hunt to noon and then start to head home. We went to a spot that had what you have told me is grass. That grass we would call a bush or something else as grass where we live is the lawn that may get four inches high. This stuff was six feet tall and thick enough to swim through. It held pheasants; many, many pheasants that seemed to get up and go right back down again into the grass. Probably a combination of this thick cover and the cold wind made for some good points. The dog worked wonderfully never losing me in that cover and we quickly put two roosters and a quail in the bag. Those birds in the bag represented less than one tenth of one percent of the birds we saw. It was a great spot and we barely touched it. After a scant couple of hours of walking what started out as a good wind steadily increased until my hat blew off. That plus we had to make a long drive home added up to us calling it quits. Probably more than anything else I felt we had a good hunt. With this pup working like he did on his first wild bird hunt gives me much anticipation for the future. MAHA made all of this possible.
A very much happy hunter, Steven.