As a pheasant hunter, I’m looking forward to Saturday’s opener for the 2019 pheasant season in Massachusetts. Pheasant hunting, and the traditions, fellowship and opportunities that come with it are important to those of us that hunt in this state. So now, Its once again time to create some new adventures and memories as we get ready to enjoy the sport of upland bird hunting.
This year, I am a little more excited than I can remember being in the past. I have not personally had a bird dog in a long time, and have been hunting with friends and their dogs. This Saturday, I will be getting out for the season opener with my young Brittany Spaniel “Josie May”, who is now 15 months old. I have been working her a lot over the last year on different training aspects. Lately we have been hunting/working the open fields, and some pretty thick brush. She’s been finding the quail, holding her points, even the ones that were buried in the thick brush. Now it’s time to hit the woods and fields, while we chase those big ringnecks. I look forward to watching her develop, into what I hope will be a very good pointing dog one day. She is the fourth Brittany Spaniel that I have owned and the others were all a hunters dream for bird dogs.
Every year, MassWildlife stocks an average of 40,000 pheasants on Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) and other lands open to the public. The birds are beautiful, fully feathered with long tail feathers. It doesn't take them long after they have been released to understand that man and dogs are not their friends and should be avoided at all times.
One of the biggest problems hunters face, and it’s especially true for those who are new to the sport, is finding productive places to hunt. Upland bird hunting opportunities abound on the Wildlife Management Areas (WMA), Wildlife Conservation Easements (WCE) and other open spaces where the private property owner provides public access for hunting in the state. You can find a Link to the areas of the state public and private lands that are open to hunting here.
IF you have ever thought of getting out and trying to hunt the Ring Neck Pheasant and do not have a dog, here are a few tips that I have learned through the years.
1. Hunters often move through cover too fast. Pheasants simply lay low and then circle behind when the threat is gone. Work through cover in a zigzag fashion. Another good way to get roosters to flush is to pause frequently. A brief stop is just enough to get a bird holding tight to lose confidence and take to the skies.
2. Pheasants move through various types of habitat throughout the day. This movement leaves them holding to the edges of cover. Hunters will target big chunks of habitat but it is important to check out places like fence lines and ditches. Anywhere one type of pheasant habitat transitions to another can offer excellent opportunities.
3. Many pheasant hunters have their feet by the fire in the late afternoon. They could be missing some of the best hunting of the day. Pheasants start moving out of heavy cover and into more open areas during the later hours of the day. Grassy patches along fields are classic cover spots for the ringnecks.
4. Cattail marshes are always good cover for pheasant hunting. They birds don’t get a lot of pressure early in the year when water is present. However, once the temperature gets cold in late November, the ice starts to form. It can become thick enough for you to walk on. Now is the best time to move through those cattails and find those birds that have been enjoying literally no hunting pressure all season.