Pheasant hunting can put food on the table, supports grassland conservation and is a fun sport that doesn’t require a lot of specialized or expensive equipment.
Once you’ve identified some areas you might hunt – the hunting usually takes place in grasslands or frozen wetlands – there are a few things to consider to make the most of time in the field once the Minnesota pheasant season opens on Saturday, Oct. 15.
Here are some tips from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Regulations handbook and hunting license
A small game license and pheasant stamp are required. Hunting regulations are covered in the 2016 Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook. Licenses are available at the buy a license page or in person at any DNR license vendor, and handbooks are also available there or online at the hunting regulations page. Hunting licenses are also available by phone, any time, by calling 888-665-4236. Don’t forget a $3 Walk-In Access validation, so you can hunt another 23,000-plus acres of private land.
Scouting an area will increase your odds of finding pheasants and good maps will help your efforts. Visit the wildlife management areas page for free online, interactive maps that identify wildlife management areas and Walk-In Access areas. Combined, these programs provide over 400,000 acres of public hunting land in Minnesota’s farmland zone. A local plat book may also come in handy to identify specific pieces of land.
Shotgun and shells
The best shotgun is one you are comfortable with. The style or gauge isn’t nearly as important as your ability to use it. Since pheasants are fairly tough birds, choose a load such as 4 or 5 shot and limit your shooting distances to 40 yards or less. This will result in fewer wounded birds. Nontoxic shot is required on federal land and many hunters prefer to use it any time they’re in the field.
Minnesota pheasant hunters are required to wear at least one visible article of clothing above the waist that is blaze orange. This could be a hat, jacket or hunting vest. Consider that the more blaze orange you wear, the more visible you’ll be to other hunters.
Pheasant hunting involves lots of walking on uneven terrain. Good quality, above-the-ankle shoes or boots will provide comfort and support for a day in the field. Since crossing creeks and marshy areas is common, many hunters prefer waterproof boots.
Cool fall mornings often turn into sunny, warm afternoons. Layered clothing will prepare you for a variety of weather conditions. Long sleeves and gloves will help keep you from getting scratched up when moving through tall grass, cattails or woody cover. Hunting chaps or brush pants are an option to protect your legs and keep you dry on mornings when the grass is wet.
Eye and ear protection
Any time you use a firearm, protect your eyes and ears. Sunglasses and foam ear plugs provide basic protection. More expensive options include coated, colored, high impact lenses and digital hearing aids that enhance some sounds while protecting ears from loud noises.
A good dog
A dog is not required to hunt pheasants, but a good hunting dog will be a companion in the field and increase chances to harvest and recover birds. Be aware that owning a hunting dog is a year-round commitment of care and training. Be sure you’re willing to invest significant time and energy before taking on the responsibility of a dog.
Be sure to carry at least two bottles of water in the field and have jugs of water at your vehicle. Water your dog and yourself, often. Bring snacks to keep your energy level up and consider canine energy bars for your dog.
Finally, grassland habitat is the key to supporting pheasant populations, and much work remains to improve pheasant habitat in Minnesota. The grasslands that support pheasants have multiple important benefits for people, other wildlife, pollinators, water quality and local economies.
To learn more about pheasant hunting, as well as about what the DNR and partner organizations are doing to improve pheasant habitat, visit the pheasant page.