Not too many years ago, photos like the one above were common. However, good pheasant hunting has been a thing of the past for about ten years now.
In the early 1980’s I hunted with a mixed breed hound dog that was deadly on pheasants. One year I personally killed 16 wild roosters on or very near to our 140 acre parcel on Webb Tract.
In about 1995, on our Mayberry property, our group bagged 107 roosters on 300 acres. Those were the days. The photo above was taken about five years ago and since about that time, I’ve only bagged a hand full of pheasants. However things definitely took a turn for the better this season.
Our little patch on Webb was not planted this past summer and the pheasant population expanded. In fact it expanded enough to where we have had some really good hunts. On my first two trips, I failed to kill a rooster, but I missed four. Lots of close calls. I felt like I was due.
On Saturday, Rob and I worked hard to put ourselves in position, but the roosters managed to escape over and over again. Bushed, I retreated to camp to eat a sandwich while Rob continued on.
After a rest, Lola and I headed to a sand hill that we’d not yet hunted. As we approached the down wind end of the five acre patch, Lola got hot and took to pursuit of the unseen birds. Her animation told me that they were not far away and I also pursued at my best rate. Lola disappeared into a thick patch of smartweed, fat-hen and aster.
When two roosters and a hen shot out of the far end of the patch, I knew where I needed to be and took off at a run (well sort of a run). Half way to the likely spot, another rooster fought his way out of the weeds – in range, but I was on the run. With only one foot on the ground, I took the only shot I had. Luckily the bird dropped. Calling to Lola, I headed to the downed bird. She arrived at the same time as me.
The rooster lay spread-eagle on a patch of Bermuda grass. When Lola nosed the tail of the bird it jumped skyward about five feet into the air where Lola snatched it – a great ending to the chase. As best I can recall, this was my first rooster in about three years.
Amazingly, between Rob and I, we raised over 25 pheasants on Saturday and more than half of them were roosters. We only got off two shots and bagged one bird.
That would have been enough for me, but with an hour left to hunt on Sunday I switched from ducks to pheasants and Lola raised several more roosters. One of them joined the Saturday bird. Now I’m looking forward to some fried pheasant.
My favorite way to cook them is to slice the breast meat thin, pound it and then dip it in four before frying. May have to do that tonight.
The long pheasant drought is over. If the trend continues, Lola will be spending more time chasing roosters next fall. Goes to show you that one of the biggest problems with pheasants is farming practice. Left with significant habitat, they can make a comeback.