Run to the Refuges

Unhunted birds in December? Is this heaven? No, it's Iowa.

Outdoor Life Online Editor

Closed since early September, many of Iowa's state-owned wildlife refuges will open to the general public the day after Christmas-and many of these same refuges offer fantastic pheasant hunting. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when hunting these late-season birds.

Be Stealthy
Slamming doors and shouting commands to Rover are signals for every cockbird to get out of Dodge. Try to park in an out-of-the-way area and approach the cover you intend to hunt quietly, with your hound at heel.

Dog Days of Winter
Late-season roosters are cagier than most, and a canine can make all the difference, both in finding and retrieving birds and working brutally thick cover.

Hot Date
Hunt the day the refuge opens, or as close to that day as possible. These are "opening day" birds in the sense that they haven't been hunted yet, but they will turn wary in no time.

Slow and Steady
An old rooster would rather run than hide, but he'd rather hide than fly. Move fast, and you'll walk right on by. Keep a slow pace. Zig-zag through likely cover, stopping often to let that cockbird get nervous.