Birds Of A Feather

The Missouri Department of Conservation, in an effort to increase the popularity of, and opportunity for, pheasant and quail hunting, has created a youth-only quail and pheasant season in October. Your editorial staff wishes the Department every success, and young hunters luck afield, and thought some background might be helpful:

Pheasants can be hunted alone or in groups, though preferably not in groups too large: too many boots tramping make too much noise, and pheasants can easily frighten and take flight too soon. A lone hunter can hunt the edges of fields and fence rows without too much trouble; the solitude and easy pace are strong draws for many.

Larger areas are more difficult to cover without help: more land means more space for a bird to escape to. Hunting bigger plots with friends or family allows for posting “blockers,” hunters stationed at edges of a bigger area who can take birds as they flush wild and dart for cover.

Good dogs can help as much as, or more than, other hunters. Labrador retrievers are especially good bird dogs; so too English setters and Brittany Spaniels.

Pheasants generally start their day at sunrise, poking around the short- and medium-length weeds and grasses in which they sleep. They begin to feed in grain fields around 8:00 am, and generally shooting hours begin one hour later. Pay attention to picked corn fields, where pheasants are likely to find missed kernels and ears on the ground for breakfast.

By mid-morning, pheasants hunker down in dense cover, and will run to avoid predators. Flushing them a-flight requires bigger groups then, to cover more land. But by late afternoon, the birds are hungry again and move back to grain fields and grazing areas. The first and last shooting hours are consistently the most productive in pheasant hunting.

Once taken, pheasant meat should be properly cared for, especially in warm weather. The best way is to dress and cool the bird immediately, following the directions of almost any chicken recipe.  


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