Pheasant Hunting Success: No Dog, No Problem
28th Nov 2022
It’s late November, which means upland bird seasons are well underway across the country.
Doubtless, the majority of pheasant hunters push the late-fall fields either the help of a well-trained bird dog or each other. This is not a sport that gives you the luxury of hiding and hunting behind a Rhino 180 blind. You need to go where the birds are, and that takes work.
But there are some intrepid upland hunters that blaze their own trails, alone, and without the keen senses of a veteran gun dog.
Many days, these hunters come up empty-handed. But it is not always that way. Many a solo hunter has filled his game bag with a limit of ringnecks.
And doubtless, much of that success is attributable to observing these important cues to pheasant hunting without a dog.
Push the Edges
Hunkered down pheasant that aren’t running or cackling might as well be invisible under only a few inches of cover.
Without the keen nose of a dog, finding them is almost impossible, and the worst part is pheasants will only run until they have no other option. In a wide-open field, you’ll probably run circles around yourself before you ever get a bird to fly.
The trick is hedging your bets - sometimes with literal hedges.
Find natural edges; they could be fence breaks, hedges, field breaks, rows of trees, or just rows of high grass. Start at one end, and slowly push the edge toward its end.
Birds will run along this cover until they get to the end, at which point they will have no choice but to break for cover or fly. Most of the time, they’re going to fly.
Wait till you get to the end of the break, and then pause a moment; and be ready for the flush.
Go Where Other Hunters Won’t
Pheasant stay alive by not allowing hunters to take a shot at them. Most of the time, this means picking the gnarliest, thorniest, thickest, most hellacious cover you can dream up, then waddling in as deep as force and reason will collectively allow.
It’s not a pretty prospect, but if you want to kick up birds, you really need to get into the thick stuff. Tangles, thickets, briar patches, blowdowns, and just big thick clumps of thorns, weeds, and logs often hold birds.
Wade in until all your good sense is screaming at you to get out, then go in two steps further and wait. A good portion of the time, you’ll be rewarded for your hard work.
Be Patient (No, Really)
Think of pheasant hunting like fishing for bass with a topwater plug. You need to make the presentation and then wait, and then wait, and then wait just a little longer until you can’t anymore…
…and then, 99% of the time, that’s when a lunker will erupt from the depths and suck down the lure.
For some reason, pheasant (and other upland species like rabbits and quail) just can’t stand the motionlessness of a predator.
Whether they think they’ve been seen or scented, it drives them mad, and if you outwait them (which typically lasts anywhere from 3 to 10 seconds) they’re going to lose their nerve and fly.
Which is exactly what you want.
Hunters in company, or hunting with a dog, will often loudly call to each other so they know where they (and their dogs) are. This is part safety measure and part practical, because it does one thing very well: it convinces birds to run.
This can work to the benefit of groups of hunters that are posted at pinch points where they lie in wait for birds to break cover and then fly. It doesn’t work when you’re alone. If you make a lot of noise, birds will run away from you without ever presenting a shot.
Instead, stay quiet. That might just convince them to stay motionless until it’s too late and they have no other choice but to fly.
Zig Zag and Corkscrew
One of the worst “beginner” mistakes you can make while bird hunting without a dog is to follow a straight course through the brush.
Following a straight course indicates to the woods and fields that you’re going somewhere, not hunting something. It also minimizes your ground covered.
What you need to do is maximize your ground covered, and you do this by zig-zagging and corkscrewing through the fields.
Have you ever seen a predator on the scent of a trail follow it? They’re doing a literal tap dance across the map, following the scent laid down by their intended quarry. You need to do the same thing to convince the birds you “see” them.
Also, being unpredictable in your course of action makes the birds nervous and may convince them to fly. For instance, take a few steps into a field and then make a sharp turn, pause, and walk off in a different direction.
You’ll be more likely to kick up birds in this manner.
Practice, Practice, Practice (There Is No “Off-Season”)
Finally, our last tip is to be ready for the shot when it comes, because you won’t get a lot of them, and this means practicing by breaking clays in the off-season.
The lack of a dog (or hunting buddies) means you will need to work and work hard, for every window of opportunity at a shot you get. The last thing you want to do is whiff.
As soon as the season closes, get to the range and start breaking clays. Practice your skills on crossers, going-away shots, and throw in some irregular sporting clay shots for good measure. Many of your shots on birds when hunting alone will be going-away, trap-style shots, but it never hurts to be prepared.
We carry everything you need for clay shooting, including gun care and cleaning accessories, range gear, and shooting accessories.
Pick up a new case, a new set of ear muffs, and some other range essentials before the season closes so you can get right back to practice on clays when it does.
No Rhino 180 Blind Needed Here: This Is an Active Sport
When you’re pheasant hunting without a dog, you’ll have to forgo the convenience of hunting from blinds like a Rhino 180 blind. It’s physical and active and being seen won’t be your problem; you’re problem will be being able to see them.
Nonetheless, with some of these suggestions, you may be able to bag a few more birds this season, with or without the help of a bird dog.
So be safe, and good luck.