Beginner’s guide to pheasant hunting: Everything you need to get started

Hunting

Pheasant hunting is a very social sport. More experienced hunters often invite newcomers along for a larger hunting party.

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What to bring for your first pheasant hunt

Pheasant hunting is one of the most popular forms of highland hunting in the United States. It’s also a great way to become familiar with upland bird hunting in general. Although you learn the finer points as you gain more experience, it ultimately doesn’t take much to understand the basics. Check out this essential gear list to ensure you have everything you need for your first pheasant hunt.

What you need to know before you go hunting

Locations

Most hunting takes place in an open field. However, birds make their homes in many other locations such as deserts, mountain ranges, grasslands and wetlands. You’ll find that the most popular destinations for pheasant hunting in the United States include North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota.

Seasons

You can only hunt roosters during pheasant season, which usually takes place from the start of October until the end of February. People hunt approximately 80-90% of pheasants during the fall, but this does not impact next spring’s population. And depending on where you live, some states prefer to have a late and early hunting season. During the early season, birds are calmer and less prone to startling. During the late season, they tend to be a bit on edge and scare more easily. 

Strategy

There are plenty of birds to hunt during the early season and many eager hunters to go with them. Because of this, some of your best hunting will probably be after the excitement of opening day has calmed down. It may be best to wait for a week or two before heading out for your hunt. Also, pheasants tend to move during the day and can be spotted along fence lines, thick foliage and ditches. However, roosters are typically more sparse in the late season, so you’re more likely to find hens during this time.

What to bring for pheasant hunting

Shotguns

The most common shotgun choice for pheasant hunting is a 12-gauge. It’s a popular choice for many upland bird hunters since it’s multipurpose. The 16-gauge is also a great choice even though shells are not readily available. More experienced hunters may use a double-barreled shotgun since it balances well and has fewer moving parts.

Apparel

Some North American states have safety guidelines that require hunters to wear a piece of bright orange clothing. This ensures other hunters on the field do not accidentally fire in their direction. Vests are a common choice, as are hats and daypacks. Find the balance between effective camouflage and safety standards.

Boots

Since pheasants live in unique and varying terrains, a pair of durable boots is a great investment for your hunting trip. Some hunters walk for miles until they find an area worth hunting, so wearing the right pair of boots that keep you warm and try is just as important as other precautions you take on the field.

Dogs

Depending on the terrain, it’s a good idea to bring along a hunting dog for your pheasant hunt. Labrador Retrievers are one of the most popular choices for hunting due to their calm nature and naturally strong hunting instincts. Griffons, Wirehair Pointers and Spaniels are great choices too, especially since they have thick coats to keep them warm during cold weather.

Dog Gear

Pheasant country has its fair share of hazards, so making sure your dog is protected during your hunting trip. It’s a good idea to purchase a chest protector, first aid kit, leashes and ID collars for your excursion. And it’s smart to have vaccination records on hand just in case you need to head to the vet.

The top hunting essentials

Best binoculars

Vortex Optics Viper HD

Vortex Optics Viper HD

These binoculars work best in low-light conditions and have an unconditional lifetime warranty. It has high-end, full-size magnification lenses which are still compact enough to carry around easily. They feature an easy-grip chassis to provide great ergonomics, even with hunting gloves on. The argon purging and o-ring seals help prevent water damage and fogging on the exterior lenses.

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Best game shears

Gerber Vital Take-A-Part Shears

Gerber Vital Take-A-Part Shears

Gerber designed these shears with a bright orange handle that is easy to spot, use and grip. It features a pivot pin that detaches the two blades for easier cleaning. The blades have serrated edges, which help cut through small game with ease.

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Best hunting knife

Mtech USA Xtreme MX-8054 Series

Mtech USA Xtreme MX-8054 Series

An all-purpose knife that works for all kinds of hunting or camping. Its well-designed handle offers superior grip even when it’s wet. The black nylon sheath protects the knife’s sharp edges. The blade also includes a blood grove, sawtooth back and an extended finger guard for safety. The handle may be too big for smaller hands.

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Best shooting gloves

Sitka Gear Fanatic Gloves

Sitka Gear Fanatic Gloves

These gloves are essential for any hunter’s arsenal. The fingerless thumb and finger allow for versatile shooting options and convenient access to any touchscreen device. It covers the other fingers with thick insulation against cold temperatures. You can also wear it under hunting gloves for an added layer of warmth.

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Best dog vest

SafetyPUP XD Dog Reflective Vest

SafetyPUP XD Dog Reflective Vest

Known as the best option for colder weather, this dog vest is available at an affordable price. It can fit dogs weighing 61-100 pounds. Its 300-denier Oxford Weave fabric is durable, water resistant and offers excellent visibility for dogs out in the brush. The soft inner lining keeps dogs comfortable and warm while also reducing rubbing and chafing.

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Best e-collar

SportDOG Brand 425 Remote Trainers

SportDOG Brand 425 Remote Trainers

You can use this e-collar in a variety of ways based on your hunting dog’s behavior. It uses high static stimulation in a 500-yard range, and can support training of up to three dogs with the same remote interface. The different tones, vibrations and static options help make training easy.

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Best boot

Timberland Pro Men’s Pit Boss Steel Toe Boot

Timberland Pro Men’s Pit Boss Steel Toe Boot

Made by one of the most trusted boot brands around, this pair of boots are made to last even through rugged wear. The leather construction is extremely durable, and they feature non-slip, abrasion resistant outsoles. These boots also have steel toes and a padded shaft for additional safety and comfort. The adjustable laces offer a comfortable fit and helps prevent ankle twisting. Users report that boots are on the heavier side and take a while to break in.

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Best hunter vest

Browning Pheasants Forever Vest

Browning Pheasants Forever Vest

Designed for the utmost comfort during rugged activities, this vest is the perfect addition for a hunting trip. The field cotton-canvas pattern is durable and comfortable, and has room for bird storage inside the zip. It also features a blood-proof game bag, and a spot for discarded shells hulls. The D-ring attachments also help secure any other accessories and gear. Machine washable.

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