Woodland Trails: Hunting pheasants at cornfield’s edgeThe temperature had barely risen above zero for the first time in days. The newly fallen snow blanketed everything in white so much so that the black dogs looked out of place in the Christmas card setting.
By: Jim Bennett, Hudson Star-Observer
The temperature had barely risen above zero for the first time in days. The newly fallen snow blanketed everything in white so much so that the black dogs looked out of place in the Christmas card setting. Shotguns loaded, shock collar on my black lab Aliya, son Josh and I started to work the edge of the picked cornfield for fresh pheasant tracks in hopes of flushing wild birds.
The field edge was a mix of hardwoods, brush, grasses and cockleburs so thick that there was no way of avoiding them. In minutes, both dogs and hunters wore clusters of brown burrs. I wonder why I have never seen any on the pheasants that I have hunted in three states the last 40 years?
Aliya knows and loves to hunt pheasants. Her vacuum cleaner nose sucks up more scent than any Hoover vacuum cleaner ever has. As she hunted, hen pheasants popped out from brush piles and grasses that would have given us some great shooting if they had only been cocked birds because hens are not legal fare.
After a half dozen hens were relocated, we walked up on an old, abandoned railroad track with great cover on the edges and down along the slopes. Josh took Aliya and walked on the north side while Teal, my year-old hunting docker, was with me. Up ahead, Josh spotted two birds running through thick cover, and one was a big rooster. Josh and Aliya closed in and flushed the hen but the rooster had disappeared.
That smart old cock bird had pulled an end run on Josh and Aliya and crossed the tracks through tall grass unnoticed. He was ready to fly to freedom from the one hunter and dog that were after him. But that move put them right in front of me and Teal. As it flushed and flew I took my time and folded the fast-flying pheasant. Teal was right on it delivering it to hand.
At the end of this walk, Josh and I split up. He worked the north edge of the corn while I took a fence line back the way we had come. Josh found pheasant tracks all along cover at the field edge so he wasn’t surprised when Aliya got birdy.
Suddenly a big rooster exploded from the thick brush, but it was too thick for a shot. Josh stayed on the bird and saw an opening. He later said it was more like taking a poke at a grouse. Sure enough, the rooster folded with Aliya right on it. We met up and compared birds and took a few pictures. Both birds had long pointed spurs. The bird Josh shot had hooked spurs but my bird’s tail was an inch longer!
As we hunted our way back to the truck, we cut along the old railroad tracks. I took the easier walk high up on top the old railroad bed when I noticed Teal getting birdy on some hot scent. She kept working down the slope to some cattails along a pond down below me when she flushed another cock bird. The bird was in range but I had never shot at flying pheasant downhill and I missed both shots.
There are still a few days left of pheasant season before it closes on Dec. 31. Hopefully we can get out a few times around Christmas and check the snow-covered cover for tracks. It’s a fun way to hunt if you dress right for the cold and snow. I might complain a little about the cold but the dogs never do. All they do is keep on hunting and wagging their tails!