There is something special about being out on the field with the bird dog working to jump pheasant and quail. The combination of your hunting partners, the terrain, and the smell of shotshell powder all culminate into a hunting experience that is steeped in tradition while still maintaining a fresh and modern hunting excursion.
A lot goes into hunting these birds. Training the dogs, scouting the fields, and preparing your hunting outfit all to take time and experience to become proficient.
In this article, we are going to take a look at a couple of pieces of gear that will make your upland bird hunting experience even more memorable and successful. We will also look at some tips that will help you limit out on quail and pheasant more consistently.
Upland bird hunting doesn’t require all that much gear. In reality, all you need is a shotgun and some ammo, and you have the capacity to take down birds, but there are several pieces of clothing and gear that will make doing so much easier.
Obviously, the main and most important piece of equipment is going to be your shotgun.
The gauge you use can vary. While the most popular are the 12 and 20 gauge, there has been a resurgence in the 28 gauge. For pheasant, the 12 gauge is the go-to weapon as you can use shells that will reach out at further distances.
Regarding chokes used for quail, you won’t need anything shooting a tighter pattern than a modified. If you think you will be on top of birds when they flush you might even go with an improved cylinder for a wider pattern.
For pheasant, it depends more on how far out the birds are flushing. Modified is a good go to choke for single barrel guns while you might go with a tighter pattern such as a full choke in your second barrel to gain a little bit more distance if using a side by side or over-under.
While any shotgun type is capable of bringing down these birds, you might consider weight above all else. Hauling a 12-pound pump around for twenty miles might work for the first ten, but those last ten are going to be miserable.
A lot of Upland bird hunters utilize the over-under shotgun. The reason is the lightness as well as the ability to utilize two choke styles as well as different loads for the first and second shot.
The most common shells loads used for quail are 1oz 71/2 to 8 shot. These loads have more than enough power and distance to drop a quail. For pheasant, you might want to go up in the shot range to a 1 or 11/4oz 5 or 6 shot. A lot of it is personal preference and what you feel more confident in using.
The hunting vest is invaluable while in the field. Not only does it provide extra storage for shells and gear, but it also serves as a visual safety feature and a means to carry your birds comfortably.
It is lightweight and features hunters orange for safety. It can easily be worn in all weather conditions and can be adjusted to fit over cold weather gear.
It features enough storage space to easily carry a full box of shells comfortably along with other gear with its nine pockets. It is also designed to carry a 2L water bladder without sacrificing storage space.
Also important is the removable and waterproof game bag that can carry multiple pheasants and can be removed and easily cleaned when the hunt is over.
It features two large front pockets that have elastic shell holders and can easily carry a box of shells comfortably. It also provides further pocket space with two zippered pockets.
The game pouch is blood proof and easily cleaned. It also features wide openings for easy, one-handed access.
This vest features large button pockets that hold shells and other gear comfortably. It also features a blood proof game pouch that can be easily accessed.
I hope you don’t ever end up in the field without a good pair of brush pants. When you chase after these birds, you often find yourself wading through briars and thistles. Without the proper pants, you can become miserable quickly.
They use a DWR finish making these pants extremely stain and water resistant and is an important feature for walking through brush with early morning dew.
These brush pants use a cotton canvas with nylon overlays. While these materials are excellent wind protection, they are not the best brush pants to wear while in extremely heavy and thorny brush.
Full briar pants tend to be uncomfortable for most hunters. Chaps are an excellent alternative and allow you to wear your favorite hunting pants while adding extra protection from thorns and briars.
These chaps utilize a cotton canvas with a thick briar/thorn resistant overlay. These chaps adjust for the perfect fit and are extremely easy to put on and remove quickly.
Often, hunting for upland birds means putting in quite a walking miles. Not only do you want boots that are comfortable, but you also want boots that are much lighter. Just a few ounces taken off the weight can make a difference in that last field you walk for the day.
These leather hunting boots feature dual density polyurethane soles and are one of the most popular hunting boots for Upland Birds. These Kangaroo boots made from kangaroo leather instead of cow leather with the former being lighter and more durable. These boots are extremely lightweight and only weigh in at 22oz each!
Not only are they light, but they are also durable and provide comfort and stability to your sole and ankle. These boots are water resistant and also feature an abrasion resistant toe guard.
While these boots are higher on the price range, you will not need another pair for years to come, and they offer every feature a hunter looks for in their hunting boots.
Irish Setter boots are a well recognized and respected brand of hunting boots. Their Upland boots use high grain leather that is durable and waterproof.
These are also lightweight hunting boots, but near as light as the Kangaroos. They also feature an excellent soft sole that makes long walking periods much easier on the foot.
The shaft of these boots measure 8.5” and provide plenty of ankle support while in the field. The sole also offers a lot of traction and perform well even in slick conditions.
Now that you are outfitted with the proper equipment, it’s time to take a look at several key hunting tips that will help you locate and flush birds more efficiently and give you ample shooting opportunities.
Quail Hunting TipsUnfortunately, a lot of areas in the US is experiencing a decline in quail population. We hope that many wildlife programs that are putting programs in place to bring back this beautiful bird will be successful and future generations will be able to experience this hunt as those before us.
Hunt into the Wind
Quail rely on their hearing to escape predators. By hunting into the wind, you reduce their ability to hear you coming and flushing before you are in range. This tactic benefits your hunting dogs by giving them a better chance to catch the bird’s scent well ahead of their hiding spot.
Weedy fields that have natural growing plants and vegetation are excellent cover and provide seeds that quail feed on. Well-maintained pastures and crop fields do not provide the necessary cover for these birds and hunting them will be a waste of time and energy.
Areas that have natural borders such as cover fields next to wooded areas or fields surrounds by natural hedgerows, or fencerows are excellent places to find a covey. Overgrown hedgerows or ditches are also funneled that the birds will use to move from one area to the next and are great places to find some birds.
Leave that Covey Alone
This tip is especially important for hunters in areas where the quail population has been declining in recent years. There are not many things as satisfying as having a covey of 20+ birds flush right in front of you, especially if it has taken several miles to find them.
It can be easy to take a few birds in a covey and keep going after them. Perhaps there was a time where this was not detrimental to the population, but it is now. If you jump a covey and drop a few birds, you need to start thinking about heading to a new area. If you continue hunting that covey and kill 10 out of the 20, you have doomed the rest of them.
Right Place at the Right Time
Quail do not remain in the same area throughout the day and keying in on areas at the right time will improve your success. They usually roost near overgrown fields in shrub thickets and move into these fields to feed early in the morning.
Your best chance of jumping quail during mid-afternoon hunts will be in more wooded areas that will offer the birds more cover. In the late-afternoon quail will migrate back to fields to feed and get ready to roost for the night.
Pheasant Hunting Tips
Work with a Team
You can work an area much more effectively when there is a team of hunters. You can cover a wider area faster put a lot of shots on birds turning down the line, and drive birds to blockers at the end of the field. Having a couple hunting dogs can also be extremely helpful.
Food, Shelter, Water and the Right Time
To increase your success, you need to work areas that are more likely to hold birds. Pheasant will roost in medium height grass fields, but will not hold there long.
They will move from the roost to feeding fields at first light making roosting fields a poor choice to hunt. Cut corn, sorghum, and soybean fields hold feeding pheasant during early morning hours and make spotting birds easier.
As the day progresses, and when there is heavy hunting pressure, birds will move to heavier cover. Overgrown grass fields with a heavy brush are excellent hunting areas from late morning to mid-afternoon. In the afternoon the birds will move out from their cover to feed before returning to their roosts.
These birds also need water. If there has been a dry spell hunting fields or cover near a water source can be an effective tactic.
What about the Snow
Pheasant season often runs into months where snowfall is possible. A snow covered field should not deter you from hunting, and you can still hunt pheasants effectively.
Pheasants tend to stick tight in the snow in very heavy cover, and it will nearly take you stepping on the to get them to flush. Cover ground slowly in these conditions and hit thick areas more than once.
Hunt into the Wind
When possible, it is best to work a field with the wind in your face. When a pheasant rooster gets up, it can move fast. If you add his speed with the wind to his back, he is going to be out of range quickly.
When flushed they are either going to turn and fly parallel to your position and eventually turn upfield of you, or they are just going to turn upfield. With the wind coming towards you, it slows down their acceleration and gives you a few extra seconds to get off some shots.
Too many hunters tend to leave the upland birds well enough alone and focus more on the big game. Upland birds and the big game should not be compared, but instead looked at as two completely different hunting skill sets and experiences. One is not better than the other.
We hope that this article has provided some great gear options that will make long days filled with a lot of miles more easy to endure.
We also hope that out tips on locating and flushing both quail and pheasant will lead to hunts ending with a gull bag.