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MNpurple

Rookie pheasant hunter Qs

18 posts in this topic

I've always been a duck, deer, and grouse hunter but have recently moved to New Ulm and decided its time to get in on the pheasant game. Its me and and 8 month old lab pup so we are both learning as we go and learning from each other but are going to go all out,so a few questions for some of you vets...

I went out last night and tonight on some Swan Lake WMAs thinking there would be less people during the week and in the rain. Wrong! I cant help but feel I am the 5th or 6th truck in that lot that day and am walking the same tracks as everyone else. I've kicked up a few birds but not nearly what preseason scouting had eluded to. Does the pressure decrease as the season goes on?? And is there anything left to shoot at on public land, these birds are being hammered.

I am by New Ulm and Mankato, both bigger towns, if I head West and Southwest where there is less people and towns and more WMAs, does the pressure decrease significantly, and the hunting become better or if its a WMA it is hammered??

I'm assuming the key on high pressure areas is to get off the beaten path and into the thick and nasty, like the cattails (if no water) and willows?

Thanks for the help, We are going to keep at it, but I was just shocked at the midweek pressure around here.

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Quote:

I'm assuming the key on high pressure areas is to get off the beaten path and into the thick and nasty, like the cattails (if no water) and willows?

Thanks for the help, We are going to keep at it, but I was just shocked at the midweek pressure around here.


Get off the beaten path and you will find birds, and when you do there might be large numbers grouped together.

The large number of hunters will slow down real fast after a couple of weeks.

Public land is better during December when all the crops are cut and the birds dont have anywhere else to go.

Hunting cattails is often rewarding, but lots of times really fustrating because lots of birds will flush easy with any noise at over 100 yards. It is very important to be quiet even when getting out of your vehicle.

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Get out as often as you can, do some exploring, find your own little hot spots. Buy yourself a PRIM map for the areas you plan on hunting and start looking for unpicked corn fields, the bigger the better. Mark them on your map, watch them and try to be one of the first into the WMA or WPA after its harvested. You will be amazed at how many birds are in there. That is my tip for you rookie. Pressure does not decrease much anymore, not like it used to. You have many years for you and your pup to learn the game, enjoy the journey.

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I've got a WMA next to my place. In the 10 years I've been here the pressure does nothing but increase. With the normal weekend crowd of up to 20 plus vehicles visiting the parking area on any weekend day. Weekdays there are also vehicles in and out. The first weekend there are several shots and they decrease as season goes on.

Get em first is the basic philosophy. Young birds hold and flush close, by second weekend they get wiser....

With work, and a young dog you can hunt some thicker cover and do well. hunt slow and you may well put up more birds, as they tend to backtrack on fast hunters. Basic thing is to remember that the pheasant in the pan is a Bonus. The lower your expectations, the greater the reward. you'll learn quickly that your dog may know a bit more about them rascally pheasants than you give him credit for. Good luck, Brent

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Don't overlook those small creeks, ditches and fencelines either. Generally people drive by and don't consider these types of cover. They rarely get hunted and they will hold birds. Also, seek out small grass patches that are out of the way or the sight of most hunters. That basketball court sized patch of grass over the hill may never get hunted all year. Knock on a few doors and be prepared for a bit of rejection and a few unexpected positive replies. It's all about legwork.

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All great advice, so far!

This may take a bit of reading, but I wil get to your questions at the end, I promise!

I threatened in the other post that I was going to go buy the MN license just because our season looks bleak and to put some field work/conditioning into the dogs before I head to South Dakota. (nov 3=7th)

I left my office at 3 today and drove 25 miles to Mn and bought a non resident license. I then drove by a couple pieces of WMAs (large) and found that each one was occupied by a small group of hunters.

I found a small WMA that had lots of vehicle tracks going in but it was a small, manageable piece that I could work with my dogs. GSP and Blk Lab)

The GSP is 3 and the lab is 10.

This particular piece of WMA has about 100 yds of cover on each side of a small creek that has enough water flowing thru it that you couldnt get across without getting extremely wet. So my hunt this afternoon, was going to be a half mile in and a half mile back, along the same 100 yds of cover.

When I rounded the first bend, I find the pointer locked on point. As I approached with the lab, she creeps a bit and then breaks. About 15 hens bust loose out of the surrounding grasses. A few seconds later, shes locked on point again! I walk up and the first rooster of the year jumps up from 12 feet from her nose. A smooth swing and a touch of the trigger and the first bird of the season hits with a thunk. Both dogs run to the mark and the lab picks up the bird and the shorthair continues on hunting. I'm about ten minutes from the truck, right now.

We walk onward, knowing full well that we are probably early for the birds to be heading back to the roosting areas.

We turns a small bend to the left and the GSP locks on point again. We walk up and a hen busts loose from the light cover. I draw a practice bead on her as the dogs give a slight chase. I call the dogs back pat them on the head and continue onward.

We work our way towards the back of the area and the pointer goes on point again. I walk up and find nothing. She relocates and again nothing. Relocates again.. Nothing.. Starts to relocate a 4th time and a hen flushes to the side heading back towards the adjoining cornfield. I let the dog work the area thouroughly and nothing else is found.

I'm now at the back of the area and its 4:45 on the clock.

Knowing full well that it took about half an hour to make the walk and sunset is at 6:35. I find a dry spot so sit down, and give the dogs a 15 minute breather before we work our way back to the truck.

We walk back North (with the wind now) to the slight bend and the the pointer locks on point again. Hen.

We get back to the spot where the initial 15 hens jumped up, and the dog is casting to my left, and locks solid on point again. Before I can get up there for a decent shot, a rooster jumps up from about 15 inches off her nose. (One of the perils of hunting with the wind, is that they will run over some birds some times.) As I'm standing there letting the dog work the area back into the wind, I hear wings beating to my right. A rooster had flushed along the fence line about 30 yds ahead of me and flew back into the adjoining cornfield.

After letting the dog work the area, we move onward.

I'm down to the last small section of cover, before I get back to the truck.

As we move forward, the pointer locks on point in front of us, well within sight of my truck. In fact, I'm thinking about the truck being in my sight line should the bird flush that direction. We get up there and both dogs go crazy in a small patch of cover, but nothing comes of it. The pointer maks a large circle and picks up scent over to our left, along the creek. She gets into some heavier trees and cover along the creek and locks on point again. The lab and I walk up and a rooster jumps up about ten feet in front of me. He promptly slams into the first tree, gets somewhat hung up in the tree, and then recovers, and flys directly thru the trees, never offering me a clear shot. I stand there, dumbfounded, laughing at myself that a rooster could get up that close and I never even strike the trigger. We're 25 yds from the truck now and when I get to the truck its 5:30 on the nose. I take my jacket and cap off, place the bird on the tailgate and think about how I'm going to spend the last hour of the hunt. I decide to heel the dogs and take them to the lake, which is just across the road. We spend 15 minutes dinking around the lake, and resting on the tailgate of the truck, knowing full well that every minute that goes by theres a chance that more birds will move into the grasslands from the adjoining cornfield.

At 5:45, I put my jacket and cap back on and head south, back into the wind. Halfway in, the pointer is locked on point next to the creek again in the heavier grass and trees. Another hen jumps up and flies back out over the cornfield. We continue on to the slight bend to the left again, and she locks on again. Nothing. relocate, nothing. in the process of relocating again, a bird flushes out over the cornfield. I cannot tell if its a rooster or hen. I decide that I am as far as I am going, and still have 25 minutes of shooting time left. We sit down again, and take a break.

After sitting about 5 mintues, my cell phone rings, and I see it is a friend of mine from the cities. We talk for a while about deer licenses. Coincidentally, he had bought his Iowa Non resident license today $255 (doe) and I had bought my MN Non resident license $141.00 at the same time I bought my small game license today.

I get up, release the dogs and start my walk back to the truck. I dont go 40 yds, and I hear the beeper collar. I'm still on the phone and walk down towards the pointer who is locked into the action position. A rooster jumps up, I drop the phone, pull the gun up and pinch the trigger as the barrel buries the bird. The rooster crumples and lands in the creek. Both dogs run out to pick the bird up, but the retriever wins this battle, which is alright with the pointer, as she would rather go find a new bird to outsmart. I pick the phone up out of the grass and finish our conversation smile.gif I then stuff the soggy rooster into the game pouch and head back to the truck. Its 6:20 now.

I have two tired dogs, my first two roosters of the season, and only shot two times and still got in a full day at work.... almost. ...... Life is good, isnt it.

OK, now, what does this have to do with your question?

First off, its early season. Most birds arent going to be in the heavy, heavy stuff. In fact, if you want to hunt something that hasnt been trampled, head to lighter cover! Its not uncommon to find plenty of early season roosters in what is left of an alfalfa field. All the heavy cover gets hunted hard, right. Go for the light stuff. If you pull up to a larger piece of state ground, (capable of handling a couple groups) and a group is in there busting thru the cat tails, get the dog out, and head to the light cover. Head to the tops of the hills adjoining the swamps. When the other groups dogs start to break the heavy cover, you can bet that most times, they will be called back down into the heavy cover, leaving the lighter cover alone.

Granted, theres going to be some guys that say I'm wrong, that they shot all their birds in the cattails and swamps, but chances are, they spent all their time in that type of cover. Kind of like when someone tells you they caught fish in 10 feet of water, because they spent the entire day in....... 10 feet of water.

Wait till the birds want to cooperate. Almost everyone busts their butt from 9am till 3 and then drive around looking for a bird in the ditch to hunt when they should be out walking. At least until the majority of the corn comes out. Corn fields trump all cover..... with the exception of the very earliest and latest parts of the day. When the corn is gone, then any cover is good. Obviously, as the season wears on and the temps drop, then you need to trade in the lighter cover for something more substantial.

As a lone hunter, you can do something that the groups cant or wont do.... Follow your dog. I dont care if he wants to go the other way... If you can hunt the ground, follow him...

And the last thing, which is the most probably my most important tip. Hunt in STEALTH mode. The whole while I was out today, the only words spoken was when I quietly told the dogs how good they were and my quiet phone call I took when I considered myself done for the day.

The main thing, is just go hunting. It will happen and you will make your own rules.

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Some good tips by reddog and others!!!

The key to pheasants right now is the corn harvest. Every day on the way home I drive by some public land and check the corn fields, if they've went out that day, thats where I hunt. The birds get pushed out of the corn into the adjacent public land. Thats the ideal situation. Even if the corn hasn't been harvested, I pick a public area that has some corn by it, because the areas where all the crops are out got pounded this weekend while the public areas with some standing corn by them will have birds. Then hunt that area at prime time, meaning the couple hours before sunset, and make your last sweep at 20 minutes until sundown right next to that corn field.

Other tips. Hunt prime times, 9-11, 4 til sunset. Run silent, no whistles, no yelling at old MallardMuncher, or the birds will be gone way ahead of you. Save cattail hunting for later, cover more of the upland, hit the edges of cover.

One last thought. Trust your dogs nose. When hes hot, follow him. But if hes not hot, then you direct the route, think about where the birds might be. On a really windy day, they'll be in cover. On a real nice day, they'll be in light cover. Which brings up another tip. Hunt bad weather, it really cuts down the territory you need to cover. On a nice sunny fall day, you're almost better off staying home and raking leaves - then run out an hour before sunset and hunt!!!

This got kind of long but I love to hunt pheasants!!!!

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Move slow birds wise up really quick

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A good dog can make an inexperienced hunter look good. As long as you can shoot straight laugh.gif.

I work the ground fairly fast but I just follow the dogs and let their noses do the work. They'll let you know when one is there.

I also believe in being quiet! Those birds get smart and it can get frustrating to see birds get up well ahead of you, especially if you aren't seeing many.

If you don't have a dog I've heard it's a good idea to walk a few paces and then pause. Some birds will get spooked if the noise stops. Not sure how well it works, since I hunt with dogs. But I've heard of this "trick" before so it might be worth a shot. Also be ready at the end of any section your walking. Most birds will prefer to run and wont fly until there isn't any cover left. At the end of a section they run out of areas to go and are more likely to try flying.

I've heard of a lot of birds getting up next to trucks when the hunter has basically given up.

Also I've noticed that the pressure has gone up a lot in the past 10 years. When I first started hunting pheasants with my dad. We went out EVERY Sunday afternoon it we wouldn't see another hunter ever. Now we can't go anywhere without running into other hunters. Maybe it's more hunters, or just less areas. Either way the pressure seems to continue all season long.

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When it is wet out like it has been this week don't look for birds in heavy cover (cattails, meadow grass, etc). Look for patches of thinner stuff surrounded by tall grasses. As others have said: hunt the edges, especially stuff that is bordered by corn in the mornings and evenings. Don't give up early in the season, the best the that can happen for rooster season is deer season, when a lot of people quit chasing birds for the rest of the year.

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I got a follow up question. Can you walk ditchs in MN? I bought my MN NR license fo the first time this yr. Its more for a few ducks than pheasants. I downloaded the huntng regs but that thing is like a Bible. In Aramaic. Thanks for the help.

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In a word, no. Its not like Iowa.

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i hunted many years dogless or with untrained mutts. one thing i try to do is look at a parcel of land as you would a body of water you are fishing. anywhere there is a change in cover, is a good place to find birds. transitions from tall to short grasses, grass to brushy cover, food plots to grass. when walking standing corn, always be ready if you have a thick grassy patch in the rows, even cockelburrs will give rooties a place to stop running and hide.

one of my favorite types of cover in wind, rain or snow, is snake grass(equine or horsehair). the stuff seems to always hold birds nice and tight.

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What about railroad tracks? Is that legal? I've had several people tell me it is a good option but haven't investigated the legality... Thanks

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It's only legal if you have permission from the rail road, and good luck on that one.

Tracks are not public property.

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Lots of good advice here. Another thing to think about when hunting wma's is look at your map and don't be afraid to give the small plots a quick walk through. Everyone with an orange hat walks through the big well known ones, but alot of them disregard the small ones and alot of the time that will reward the hunters that put the extra effort and walk the small ones.

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Railroad tracks are private. A friend of mine and his wife were kicked off some tracks last friday. The maintenance worked told them the conductor had called it into the sheriff.

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I have pheasant hunted west of you for 20 years. It does get much better if you go west. I have hunted the area you live also and it does get better as the season goes on. When the cattails freeze and you can walk them do it. I think i have hunted every wma in your area and there are some good ones once we get the ice we need in the cattails. Bring extra boots and pants for when you fall in, i do every year at least once or twice.

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