Pheasant Hunting | Beginner’s Guide

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Pheasants taste fantastic, and they are so much fun to hunt! And this is by far one of the easiest and best ones to do with your hunting dog. You can hunt pheasants by yourself with your dog or you can go together as a hunting party. It’s so much fun either way! And here we will present you with a Beginner’s Guide To Pheasant Hunting:

What Is the Best State For Pheasant Hunting

South Dakota has been known to be the best pheasant hunting capital in the world by use of the large number of pheasants that live there. The places that have been pinpointed to be good for pheasant hunting in South Dakota are Brown county, Hughes county, McPherson county, Beadle county, and Lyman county. However, some other states have also proved to be good hunting grounds for pheasant hunters. These are Kansas and Nebraska.

Nebraska Pheasant Hunting

A lot of private lands have been leased to the public for hunting through the open fields and waters program. The pheasants can exist in a suitable habitat that encourages them to get offsprings.

Pheasant Hunting in PA

There are very many places to hunt pheasants in PA. Some of these are Adam hill hunting adventures, big r bird ranch, Bittner’s wild wings, dry valley farm, and many more. In pa, hunters are free to raise pheasants long as they have a permit. In pa, you can hunt your land as long as you are a qualified landowner without a license. This, however, cannot be done on any other land. To hunt in PA, you need a license and a permit.

Pheasant hunting in Illinois

Illinois was the first state to open up a state-operated game farm back in 1904. The government then distributed eggs and chicks to the people to increase the population of pheasants. Up to date, there are many places where one can hunt pheasants in Illinois such as Cranny Mack Bird Hunting, Coin Creek Hunt Club, and Morrison Pheasant Hunting Club.

Best Hunting Dog for Pheasant Hunting

Selecting one dog breed is almost impossible, there are many good breeds but not as many good lines of pheasant hunting dogs within that breed :

  •  Talk to your fellow hunters who own pheasant hunting dogs that you see are doing good and ask about their lines and if they would recommend buying from the same.
  •  Contact the associations for the breeds you are researching, make sure their dogs are the field-bred variety and not show-bred variety.          
  •  Explore the online forums of these associations for opinions on inconsistent breeders and look for good reviews.
  • Visit the breeder in person to see their facility and discuss what you are looking for in a pheasant hunting dog.
  • I know some hunters that will never buy a hunting dog from someone they have not been hunting with. You can say a lot about the potential of the puppy if you hunt with their parents. It is also a common request when you are buying a puppy to ask if you can see their parents in-action.

What Dog Breeds Are Best for Pheasant Hunting?

The German Shorthaired-Pointer

It is exceptionally good at pointing and finding the location of birds. Moreover, they can also be trained to flush and retrieve.

The Brittany dog

Regardless of their small size, they make great pheasant hunting dogs. Their size makes them suitable for long travels.

The Boykin Spaniel

These are the best dogs to consider if you are hunting near water or thick cover.

The English Springer-Spaniel 

It is a flusher. This breed is very fast. However, they gain weight fast and as the owner, you have to watch their diet and health.

Golden Retriever

These dogs can be used throughout all seasons because of the thick and water-repellant coats that make them able to withstand adverse weather conditions.

Labrador Retriever

They are tough and durable and can stand extreme temperatures and chilly waters. If you are hunting for pheasants in the cold, this one of the best dog for you. We have written an extensive guide on How To Train A Labrador Retriever here.

More importantly, while choosing your dog look at the terrain and weather you want to hunt in as this will help you make a wise decision on which dog breed that suits you best.

What Is the Best Time for Pheasant Hunting

The best time to go pheasant hunting is early in the morning and in the evening. Mornings will be best for you as the pheasants are found in light cover searching for food.

Tips For Pheasant Hunting

Scout The Hunting Ground Beforehand

You will have a tremendous advantage if you have scouted for pheasants before hunting. This will save you all the hassle that comes with searching for the birds while hunting. You can identify a pheasant habitat by identifying a food source. These are corn, milo, and sorghum farms.
Just like human beings, pheasants also need water for their survival. This means that you can find them close to lakes and ponds.

Be As Quiet As Possible

Pheasants have amazing hearing and as soon as they hear any kind of noise they will run away. You, therefore, have to ensure that you are as silent as possible. To avoid making unnecessary noise, you can use hand signs to signal your partner instead of talking. Keep in mind that these birds have excellent evasion skills and will not give you an easy time if you let them know that you’re coming for them before you are ready to take a shot.

Keep The Dog Close To You

If your hunting dog is not well trained it will go for pheasants that are outside of your reach with the shotgun, this will make for a horrible experience for both you and the dog. Your dog will think that it’s doing a fantastic job and you’re not rewarding it by shooting the bird and you will get really annoyed on all the missed opportunities. So make sure you train this before the hunt. The dog should never more farther from you than 15-20 yards.

How to Train A Pheasant Hunting Dog

As we have discussed before pheasants are very elusive birds that will not give you an easy time hunting unless you have an exceptional dog. Therefore before taking your dog to the field for pheasant hunting, you need to ensure that he is thoroughly training. Below are some of the steps to take to ensure that your dog is well trained.

During this training, you want to ensure that your pheasant hunting dog learns to recognize scents. Locate and follow a trail flush out birds, track a downed pheasant, and return it to you. All this should be done in silence, that is without barking as this will only scare away the birds and send them running. He should also bring the bird back to you without destroying it.

For training purposes you need to equip yourself with a bright orange hunting vest for your dog, short and long leads, treats, a large field to work in, adequate time to train, scots, and pheasant scent. First of all, you need to ensure that the dog has learned basic commands such as sit, mark, and even fetch.

For the training purposes, there are different ways in which you can introduce the pheasants to your dog. Start by hanging the pheasant’s wings on a string and allowing the dog to notice it and chase it. You can also take a clipped wing bird and throw it in the field for your dog to find.

Another good method is by putting many birds in a cage and taking them to the field without the hunting dog’s notice. Thereafter you should let him lose to try and find the birds.

Avoid making your pheasant hunting dog gun-shy. This often happens when you introduce gunfire too soon in the dog’s training and without the proper preparations.

The process of introducing your dog to guns should be done gradually, it takes time for the dog to eventually get used to the sound of the gunshots.

If you are not able to access a game reserve for training purposes, you need hot worry all you need is a few training decoys and some pheasant scent. The scent is normally used on dummies.

As time goes by you can even introduce other commands to your hunting dog. A training leash is used during training to ensure that your dog doesn’t run too far away from you, and gets used to staying in the correct distance.

As with all training, it will take some time. Given that you have picked a good breed of pheasant hunting dog and the correct line, this will be a rather smooth process. Just make sure that you are training non-season so your dog and yourself don’t get lazy and forget the training you’ve put in.

What Hunting Equipment Is Needed For Pheasant Hunting?

You need to go to the field prepared with the right equipment that will ensure you have an easy time during the pheasant hunt. These are:

  • One shotgun or two and gun cases and chokes depending on what shotgun you use.
  • Shotgun shells
  • Blaze orange hat for security
  • Chaps or brush pants as Pheasant hunting is usually conducted in terrain where this is a requirement.
  • A cooler to bring the birds home.
  • Knife to dress the pheasants with.
  • Leash and Collars for your dog.
  • Latex Gloves for dressing the pheasant.
  • Paper Towels (I prefer baby wipes to be honest)
  • Water for you and your dog
  • Snacks and food
  • Garbage bags
  • Ear Protection
  • Shooting glasses

What Should You Wear For Pheasant Hunting?

If it is a chilly day, wear a jacket that you can remove later when the day gets warmer. A long sleeve shooting shirt under a jacket or a vest is good to ensure yours do not get your arms scratched in the thick cover. You should also wear long pants to protect your lower body as you hunt in areas with thick cover.

Since you are likely to be in marshy area as this is the most common habitat for pheasants, get waterproof boots to ensure that the boots fit, and are comfortable as you are going to be using them for a long time.

Ear and eye protection is highly recommended. This can be shooting glasses and earplugs.

Best Caliber and Loads For Pheasant Hunting

A 28 gauge is recommended and most commonly used for hunting pheasants as it is light and thus allows you to swing quickly and in a fluid motion. Shotgun chokes are screwed at the end of majority of shotguns. In some, these chokes are interchangeable while in others they are not. Chokes come in various sizes. Having a tighter choke will ensure that you get a tighter shot pattern and will hit better at longer range.

You need to understand how shotgun shells are designed and how they are categorized. A key thing to remember is that the higher the number on the shells are the smaller the diameter the pellets inside the shell are.

Take the example of #9 shells, they will have less than 0.9 inches of diameter and a mass of less than one grain. On the other hand, #1 shells have a diameter of 1.6 inches or larger and a mass of 6 grains. So #1 is obviously the stronger shells and should, therefore, be used on larger game than the #9. Here you can read more about the different sizes.

There are a ton of options for different shells on the market, the most common and traditional one (and best) is the lead-based shells. These are not environmentally friendly in the same way as the steel ones. There are also a lot of other options on the market now.

Most pheasant hunters prefer to use #4 to #6 shells as it’s a good balance between strength of impact and getting enough spread in your shots for pheasant hunting. And they work all season long.

While hunting for early season pheasants gauge 12 and load 6 will work the best. When hunting for the late-season pheasants, gauge 22 and load number 4 is the best.

Keeping Your Dog Safe during Pheasant Hunting

Always carry your first aid kit in case of any injuries in the field. The first aid kit should be well equipped.

  • Attach a bell to your dog so that you can always track it.
  • Ensure that your dog is well trained for gunshots to prevent shock.
  • If it is a cold day or the dog will be in contact with chill waters, carry towels to dry it.
  • Carry water to keep it hydrated.
  • Know when to stop the activity. This is to ensure that the dog is not overworked as this may have adverse effects on its health.

Avoid Damaging Your Dogs Hearing

Yes, this is because the loud bangs from the shotgun can cause permanent hearing damage to your dog. However, there is no equipment to ensure that the dog is protected in the same way as there is for us.

As a hunter, try to follow these guidelines in order to make sure you keep your dog safe.

  • Do not shoot directly over a dog’s head when it is close to the gun muzzle.
  • In the blind or on the water stand, ensure that the dog is not in front of you.
  • Train it to avoid creeping as he might get shot accidentally.


Hunting dogs should undergo intense training before the pheasant season in order for it to be a success. These dogs can also be great companions and pets when its off-season.

Any dog can improve their pheasant hunting skills if you are patient enough with them and work towards improving their skills.

Carry the necessary equipment with you to make your time easier. Also, ensure that you carry a first aid kit in case of any injuries.

Pheasant hunting with dogs can be a very enjoyable and fruitful exercise if the correct measures are put in place. Also carry the name, phone, and directions to the nearest veterinary office around in case the dog needs to be urgently taken care of.

Make sure you don’t miss the pheasant hunting season, it’s so much fun and even better if you do it with your dog!

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