Pheasant Hunting without a Dog: Tips for Success
It’s November. You know what that means. Pheasant season; right now, upland bird seasons are opening around the country and hunters are raring to get out in the fields and swing on a rooster.
Many of them hunt over dogs. Some do not. If you are in the latter camp, here are some tips to improve your chances of success.
Give these a go, and be safe.
Wear the Right Hunting Apparel (This Is Important)
If you’re hunting without a dog, you’re going to need to do all of the hard work yourself. That means you need to be able to slog through flooded bottoms and push impenetrable briars, all in the same outing.
This makes waterproof boots absolutely essential; gaiters will also help protect your pants and prevent them from wicking too much moisture. Also, thick, abrasion-resistant, upland pants are a must.
Stay Warm (and Cool) and Dry
It can be cold out there in November, so layering is important. This will help you keep both cool and warm. If you get too hot working the fields, just shed a layer. Sweating in the cold can be dangerous.
For the lady hunters, we recommend buying women’s hunting clothes designed by women for women, instead of rolling the dice on what you can find at the local outfitter.
DSG Outerwear (DSGOuterwear.com) carries a complete line of women’s hunting clothes and hunting gear. Their collection includes blaze hunting jackets and bibs (perfect for complying with regulations) as well as a wide range of comfortable, durable upland pants.
Walk Linear Cover
Finding birds without a dog is hard, but one trick you can follow to increase your chances of success is to walk linear cover.
Ringnecks will often run until they can’t, and only then will they fly. Pushing a long fencerow or hedge is a great strategy to force a bird to take to the wing.
Walk slowly and deliberately along the break until you get to the end, then be ready for the flush.
Get in the Thick of It
Without a dog, you need to get into the thick brush if you really want to hope for a shot. Walking the perimeter of a field or thicket doesn’t give a bird hunkered down in the middle any good reason to show himself. You need to get in there.
Good advice: find the thickest cover you can, and push it. Then push further. The most tangled spots often hold birds, and you’ll be rewarded.
Don’t Make Too Much Noise
A common problem in upland hunting is making too much noise. Wary birds will run and never give you a shot, and without a dog, you’ll have little chance of kicking them up.
Instead, keep as quiet as possible (don’t sing or whistle to yourself; this is one advantage of hunting without a dog). Often birds will sit tight with their eyes closed until you’re almost right on top of them – then fly.
The Pause Is Your Friend
Just like in fishing, pausing can be beneficial in bird hunting. When you’re pushing a field, take frequent stops and look around and listen.
For some reason, the pause makes birds dreadfully nervous. Possibly, they mistake your stillness for the impression that they’ve been spotted or scented.
Many flushes happen on the pause. Be patient. You can probably outwait the bird.
Follow a Random Path
Corkscrewing through the fields, just like taking pauses, also makes birds nervous. When you break into a field or briar patch, follow a straight path for a few steps, then make a sharp break in another direction.
Sometimes, changing direction is all you need to do to convince birds to fly.
Don’t Take Questionable Shots
Finally, don’t take shots if you’re not confident in them. Hunting without a dog is exhausting and it’s tempting to take every shot you get just cause there won’t be as many of them, but you need to remember one very important thing: as hard as it is to kick up birds without a dog, it is even harder to recover them.
Therefore, take only high-quality shots in which you’re confident. It’s more ethical and will result in greater success for you, anyway.