Pheasant fever: tips for hunting in Kansas

Upland birds can be a challenge for any hunter, especially in the western Kansas terrain. Hunters should make sure not to get too far ahead of their hunting partners to prevent accidentally stepping into their shooting path and risking injury.

Josh Rouse

From amidst the brush, an eruption of wings and a flash of green explodes toward the open field. There’s no time to think, just to react. For the pheasant hunter, the difference between success and failure can be a matter of seconds.

Pheasant hunting is one of the most physically and perhaps mentally challenging forms of hunting. It requires quick reflexes, a keen eye and, importantly, the ability to navigate miles and miles of treacherous terrain.

One of the most important tools for a successful trip afield in pheasant country is a good bird-hunting dog. Having a dog on point not only sends thrills through a sportsman’s body, it also gives him or her a chance to prepare. Without the element of surprise working against him or her, a hunter’s reaction time can be a deadly force.

Hunting dogs are also a great asset in rough country, where retrieving a bird may be a difficult feat for the average person. The symbiosis between human and animal in these situations is a sight to behold, and there is no truer example of teamwork than watching a hunter and dog work the fields. The relationship hunters have with their dogs is often misunderstood. When watching a pair of seasoned veterans work a particularly birdy area, it may soon become apparent that the hunter isn’t the only one with pheasant fever.

Another key to having a safe, legal and rewarding pheasant hunt is the ability to identify your target prior to pulling the trigger. The daily bag limit for pheasant is four roosters during the regular season, which begins Nov. 1 and runs through Jan. 31, 2009. The bag limit for the upcoming Oct. 25-26 youth season is two roosters. Identifying the roosters in a split second can be a challenge, but there are two things to pay careful attention to. Rooster ring-necked pheasants are known for having a green head, while hens do not. Duck hunters can relate to the importance of identifying the flash of green, as mallard drakes also have green heads, whereas mallard hens do not. Another key identifier of a rooster is that it often makes a very distinct sound when taking off into flight, while hens are usually silent except for the flaps of wings. An experienced pheasant hunter may even be able to tell whether it is a rooster or hen simply by the sound of their wings.

It is also important to identify where you are aiming for safety reasons. In the thrill of the moment, it can be hard to distinguish anything but the bird taking flight. This is why wearing a blaze-orange hunting vest and/or cap is essential for pheasant hunters.

When hunting in a group, each hunter should stay parallel with the others to avoid being in their neighbors’ shooting lanes. It’s not only courteous to fellow hunters, it’s safe. When taking an unarmed youth on hunt, it’s also best to keep them directly behind an adult. This will give the adult a wider and safer shooting lane, and they will not have to worry about what the child is doing. This also gives the youth a great chance to see up close what hunting is all about, and how to correctly lead the bird.