The Wild West: Ring-Necked Pheasant Hunting in South West Minnesota

It is well known that in recent years the pheasant population in Minnesota has taken a huge hit all across the Southern part of the state. However hunters are not at fault for this rapid decline, the use of strong pesticides in the 80s and-Minnesota’s most dominate factor in animal population decrease-harsh winters, along with the lack of sustained wetland areas in Minnesota has caused their population to plummet. With the help of Pheasants Forever and the likes of other conservation organizations the population has recently began to steady off. About 2 hours and 45 minuets West of Olmsted county the grasslands of West-Central Minnesota hold the most flourishing population of Ring-Necked Pheasants the state has to offer.

 

About the Animal…

The Ring-Necked Pheasant was not introduced into Minnesota until 1916, originally coming from China. They are classified like chickens, males being cocks or roosters and females are referred to as hens. Males are much more brightly colored than females much like any other bird species. They also cluck and crow like a chicken. They tend to live in grassy wetlands surrounded by agriculture. Pheasants eat seeds, bugs, and plants. They also are found on the shoulder of the highway or back country roads eating small pebbles in order to digest their food. They can go weeks without feeding during the winter by slowing down their metabolism.

Ring Neck
A brightly colored male pheasant in search of food.

They have a large amount of predators including foxes, coyotes, birds of prey, and also racoons and skunks who tend to only eat the eggs or chicks. They do not live in flocks or groups of any kind and the chicks are able to leave the mom at about 6-10 weeks. They do not fly long distances and tend to run rather than fly away from predators.

 

 

Scenario…

As you roll out of bed and glance at the hotel alarm clock you see its about time to head out for your second day of pheasant hunting. After a quick shower you grab your gear bag and gun case and head downstairs. As you toss your stuff in the back of your buddy’s truck you let your dog run around the parking lot and warm up for a long day in the field. Finally you see your friends stumble down the stairs to the lobby. You all jump in the truck and drive about 20 minuets to a wildlife management area and put the truck in park along a fence line. As the sun rises you throw on your orange vest and an orange cap. Your dog runs around excitedly already looking for birds. After you slip on your hiking boots (comfortable for a long day of walking), and throw a shock collar on your dog over his protective vest you load your shotgun with non toxic bird shots (necessary for hunting on public land). As you slam the tailgate a hen nested behind a fencepost flushes into the air.

Wildlife managment area
The MN DNR is tasked with clearly marking and mapping all public hunting land.

Before your hunting partner can pull up on the bird you call out “hen!”. You climb over razor sharp barbed wire fence line and begin to walk. The grass is about knee high, you stay in a horizontal line as your dog works hundreds of feet in front of you nose to the ground. He searches for birds buried in brush often getting sidetracked by the scent of a rabbit and forcing you to give him a quick jolt from the shock collar to keep him focused. You suddenly hear him stop and slowly approach his last known location. As you get close you approach the pile he is fixated on and as your boots close in a male pheasant springs into the air catching the wind under his wings four shotguns and the bark of your dog pierce your ears. As the shots echo across the field you see the rooster gliding to safety 100 yards away and you look at your buddies, you all laugh. Your dog gives you a look and you can almost hear him sigh in disappointment. As he puts his nose back to the ground you all load your gun making fun of each other for missing the first bird of the day. When the time finally does come and a rooster lays motionless in the reeds your dog springs into action once again delicately presenting you with your trophy. He is rewarded with a treat as you place the bird in your bag. When the sun sets and you are back in the hotel parking lot lighting your little propane grill as your partners clean the birds you joke about and reflect on a great day. Even though you didn’t fill your limit (2 roosters each in MN) you still made some great memories with your friends and dog.

 

 

Hunting Tactics…

Conditions and weather don’t come into play as much with pheasant hunting as it does with other animals. The biggest weather fact that can ruin a hunt is wind. Wind allows the pheasant to get up in the air and move at a high rate of speed. With the help of a dog conditions like rain and snow can slightly mask scent but don’t play a major role. The biggest piece of equipment you can pack into your truck when going pheasant hunting is a dog. Certain breeds of dogs are trained and perfected into bird hunting machines. With the right dog pheasant hunting can be a breeze. Setters, Springers, and Pointers are most commonly associated with pheasant hunting. Once the dog locates the bird they either sit, flush the bird, or point,

IMG_6650
My dog Axel a German Wirehaired Pointer. He has been retired for a few years now but enjoys an occasional hunt around home.

hence Setter, Springer, Pointer. Pointers and Setters have the ability to sit on birds for hours before flushing them for their owner. Bird dogs are some of the most resilient breeds of dogs because of their ambition for hunting and physical abilities. These dogs will go for 9 hours straight often tearing off the pads on their feet and bleeding from their eyes and ears before stopping. Determination like this makes them the most vital part of bird hunting.

 

 

 

 

 

In conclusion pheasant hunting can create great memories between friends, and build a special bond between you and your dog while doing something everyone enjoys. It is very important farmers and developers work towards helping support the pheasant population in Minnesota and someday restore it to it’s prior greatness.

 

 

Works Cited

“Harvest Trends.” Pilot Biologist Flight Logs | Flyways.us, flyways.us/regulations-and-harvest/harvest-trends.

“Ring-Necked Pheasant – Minnesota DNR – MN Department of Natural Resources.” Minnesota DNR – MN Department of Natural Resources, http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/birds/ringneckedpheasant.html.

“SportDOG Brand Upland Hunter SD 1875.” Pheasantsforever.org, pheasantsforever.org/.

 

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