When cagey ringnecks pull their magical disappearing act, respond with some tricks of your own.
For such a gaudy and good-sized fellow, an experienced rooster pheasant doesn’t have much trouble evading hunters and dogs. To feel the pleasant weight of a couple of cockbirds in your game bag, understand these four ringneck ploys and respond tactically.
He Does This: Skedaddles before the hunt begins
Ringnecks know exactly what slamming doors and loud voices mean, and will run or fly off before you ever hit the cover. You wouldn’t be so noisy while hunting deer, so why do it when pursuing paranoid pheasants?
You Do This: Treat birds like big game.
Park away from the hunting grounds. Don’t slam doors or tailgates, speak only in whispers, and approach cover silently. Then hunt with stealth.
He Does This: Forgets he has wings
A pheasant in the air is a pheasant in trouble. He’ll do anything he can to stay on the ground and use his fleet feet to escape the scene.
You Do This: Position blockers.
If you’re hunting with partners, station hunters at escape routes, pinch points, or ends of coverts to surprise birds and flush them or turn them back. Don’t be afraid to hunt a patch of cover a second time even if you saw birds fly the first time through.
He Does This: Runs downwind to escape
Survivor roosters stay alive by running with the wind, rather than into it. This trick can foil even the most veteran bird dogs.
You Do This: Circle farther downwind and come back at him.
When you’re working into the wind and the trail peters out, that pheasant has circled downwind. Instead of following and hoping, loop way downwind and come back into the wind, letting your dog quarter the cover.
He Does This: Hunkers down for the long haul
As much as he likes to run, a rooster that’s cornered will burrow into available cover, sit tight, and let you pass.
You Do This: Circle, kick, wander, lurk, and persist.
No pheasant flew. The dog is searching. The bird is here. Work until you find him. It’s amazing how little cover it takes to conceal a 3-pound bird. Roosters have surprised me from 8-inch ditch grass, the furrows of a plowed field, and a knot of weeds in a rock pile.