Pheasant hunting in Minnesota will open on Saturday October 13th at 9:00am. Based on the extensive harvesting going on, the hiding places will be limited. The dry conditions will test the most experienced dog since the scent trail will end abruptly.
All to often I see hunters trying to hunt areas that are too large to honestly effectively cover. Scout for areas in the morning and evening when birds will be travelling to and from roosting and feeding areas.Try to select areas that have pinch points or breaks in terrain so if the birds are running ahead they will stop. If you have spotters make sure they are in safe positions. Determine where everyone should be and make sure they stay there. Some hunters tend to roam while spotting and this can be very dangerous since the drivers assume you are at a pre-determined area and find out later you had moved. Many times because of terrain you may not be visible the entire drive, so take time to communicate prior to starting a drive.
Play the wind. It’s impossible to walk into the wind all the time but make sure to calculate the wind and plan accordingly. My Lab, Duke is incredible for taking his time to use the wind to his advantage. Numerous times he will stop and smell high and low to find the scent. Swirling winds can really test a dog so move slow and don’t push your dog. Pheasant hunting is not a track meet; if you think you’re going slow, go slower, you will save your dog, flush more birds and end the day with more birds in your game pouch.
Choose a magnum load when hunting pheasants. On many occasions I have witnessed hunters using too light of loads that will break a wing and drop the bird but unless you have a seasoned dog, you will lose more birds than you retrieve. Forgo the 7 1/2 shot and the light 6 shot if possible. Even on opening day I will use a size magnum 4 or 5 shot and on later season hunts I will move that to a 3″ 2 shot with a 1 7/8 load to provide the kill power for the most skiddish birds. The odds are usually in your favor with the heavier magnum loads.
Take your time when the bird flushes; lead the bird on left to right shots and for shots in front of you, aim for the head. You will have less damaged birds and your kill ratio will improve. The first birds that will flush Saturday morning will surprise the most seasoned hunter. My Dad always told me to count to three before shooting a pheasant; not sure if I ever made it to three but at least I started at one. Most times instinct takes over and you are the most accurate, but if you practice patience (my wife would chuckle at that irony) when hunting pheasant, your hit ratio will improve.
For successful bird retrieval, mark your birds when they drop. Take your time to methodically cover the area a bird drops if you have trouble finding the bird. When shots are fired your dog will become excited and if there are multiple dogs, this causes even more distractions. The dry conditions will be tough to find scent, so any help you can give your dog will increase the chances of finding wounded birds.
The forecast is calling for rain on Saturday so this will cause some agony for yourself but the moisture will be welcomed and your dog should be more active. The cold weather continues to push more ducks into the area so this weekend could be an effective time to stay in the blind. The deer continue to move. After the rain on Saturday; that evening or Sunday morning, the deer will be active so plan to spend some time in your deer stand. I’ve been fishing Big Kandiyohi off shore the last few nights and have caught some nice walleyes. My technique has been a jig and minnow. Retrieving the jig extremely slow and slightly popping it, seems to be a deadly method. This will obviously work on any lake in the area.
Good Luck in your quest and remember to practice safety and introduce someone new to the outdoors…