I love it when my phone rings and someone on the other end invites me on a pheasant hunt. Not just a hunt, but two days in the field with a crew that owns and runs dogs that love to pursue roosters as much as those that are carrying shotguns. The answer was simple and came quick. Yes.
I have known Jim Clarke for over three decades, and we have chased upland birds many times. It is hard to beat a wily, old rooster that has dodged the nose of a good dog in the past. These colorful birds are masters at the ultimate game of hide-and-seek.
I met Jim and his buddies at the hotel, and we enjoyed a leisurely lunch before heading to the field in the afternoon. I felt a bit like royalty invited on a pheasant hunt. However, on this outing, we would all wear some boot leather to generate potential shotgun fire. Instead of a driven hunt, this was a good old-fashioned search, pressure, and flush hunt.
We wasted no time looking at the land and determining how to best hunt it. A creek flowing through the middle had coulee fingers running up to grain fields, natural movement corridors for the pheasants. We worked about 100 yards into the native grass while the other two worked the fence line on the stubble field. With dogs working back and forth, we should be able to flush any birds within the swath we covered. We walked over a half mile before hitting the corner of the grain field. The dog no sooner worked off the stubble and into the patches of wild rose when a cackling rooster busted from cover. The wily bird likely ran the length of the grain field and thought it was safe.
Jim unloaded his shotgun, but the bird kept flying and landed on the edge of a small wetland about 300 yards away. We redirected our efforts into the diverse cover and put up two birds. This time the shooting was better, and I stuffed a rooster into the back of our ALPS Upland Game Vest X.
We worked a big circle of cover and ended up down on the creek. The action was slow, but there were enough tracks on the ground to let us know we had to stay focused. One of the dogs went on point in the prairie grass. We closed in and flushed a beautiful bird, which I was able to connect on. The rooster had run from the heavier cover hoping to go undetected, but our four-legged friend outsmarted him. I shoved a load of Fiocchi Golden Pheasant #6 into my Benelli Ethos magazine tube and started walking again.
The dogs were excited after finding, flushing, and retrieving some birds, which appeared to sharpen their sense of smell. We worked down a steep hill to an old gravel extraction site, and the pointer slammed on the brakes to let us know he had pinpointed another bird. With shotgun ready, we edged into the sparse cover, expecting an explosive cackle at any minute. However, we worked beyond the top of the ridge and never found the bird. The dog backtracked and slammed on the brakes to go on a point. We looked at the sidehill with confusion, as we had just pushed what we thought was all of the cover without a flush. The dog was within 10 yards or where he had been minutes before.
A slower approach and complete scan of the prairie grass helped locate the bird crouched tight to the ground about four yards in front of the dog. It was as though the rooster knew we made eye contact and exploded from the ground with an aggressive cackle that echoed back off the hill. I swung my shotgun hard to get in front of the bird before it cleared the ridge and disappeared. At the report of my shotgun, the bird crumpled midflight and careened over the hill and out of sight. The dog was there in a split second and was worrying the dead bird when we arrived.
The rooster had an incredibly long tail and had used every possible trick to avoid getting shot. Even after the bird took wing, it turned, caught the wind, and increased its speed to Mach II. A fast-swinging shotgun and long, sustained lead canceled the old bird’s flight.
Fiocchi Golden Pheasant
The Golden Pheasant is a premium shotgun load available in 12-, 16-, and 20-gauge to keep any avid upland hunter on target with any smoothbore. Whether you prefer an autoloader, trusty side-by-side, or classic over and under, the Golden Pheasant will help keep your game vest heavy. Those who like the classic smaller gauges will find consistent patterns and success. The precision nickel-plated lead shot and innovative wads provide the kind of consistent, optimized patterns and velocities needed to bring down challenging birds.
Grizzly Drifter 20 Soft-sided Cooler
Hunters wanting to stay in the field for several days will love the Grizzly Drifter 20 cooler features. A ballistic-nylon outer shell features several outer pockets for extra storage. Upland hunters can pack bird cleaning supplies and zipper bags for preserving birds. The gear wing on the top of the lid can be extra secure storage for dog water dishes or towels. Two beverage storage pockets hold insulated drinking cups or glasses. A roll-top liner ensures no leaking and easy cleaning. Padded handles and a neoprene shoulder strap make for easy transport and portability.
Danner Mountain 600
Leather boots are traditional equipment for upland hunters. The Danner Mountain 600 will help you cover rugged terrain and stay comfortable. With a long history of making hiking boots, Danner partnered with Vibram. Combining the Vibram SPE midsole and Fuga outsole, the Mountain 600 offer unparalleled grip on wet and dry surfaces while providing superior cushioning without the weight. A smooth full-grain leather upper and Danner Dry waterproof protection make this hiker perfect for any upland terrain. Lightweight, with a removable OrthoLite footbed, this boot will take you to where the birds hide.
Often overshadowed by other Benelli autoloaders, the Ethos is a fantastic field gun for the upland hunting enthusiast. The Ethos is reminiscent of a historic an reverred semi-automatic shotgun with modern innovation and refinement. The lightweight design makes the gun easy to swing. The core of this shotgun is the reliable, time-tested Inertia Driven System, which makes the Ethos a joy to shoot and easy to maintain. With several models, upland hunters can stick to the traditional hardwood stocks or go with easy-to-maintain synthetic. Available in 12-, 20-, and 28-gauge models, they come standard with Flush Crio Chokes and Wrenches, a shim kit, and a hard case.