Pheasants without a dog?

Discussion in 'Cast & Blast' started by Troutrageous, Nov 7, 2010.

  1. Troutrageous Active Member

    Posts: 422
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    So I went out yesterday, and flushed some pheasants out of a ditch between two plowed fields. I hit 2 birds, then watched helplessly as they got up and ran. One was a bit far to hit on the ground, and the other I missed (somehow hitting a running bird was harder than hitting a flyer). To clarify, these were separate incidents, not flushed at the same time, but both got hit, dropped, and then popped up and sprinted to the ditch further ahead. In both cases I ran right to where i saw them run back into the ditch, but was helpless to find them in the tall grass. One I even got there immediately after it dropped in, but heard nothing, and walked all through the section it was in with no luck finding it.
    Anyone know any tricks for finding these, or have an opinion on whether these birds continued to flee (I should have heard the one with how close I was), or if they might be holding tight once dropping back into a ditch?

    A veteran had told me to bump up to size 4 shot if hunting without a dog, since 4's are more likely to break a leg. I should have listened, and intended to, but I wanted to finish off the box of 6's first. Obviously 4s will be in my gun next time out. I felt pretty bad at the waste, I'd obviously rather miss than injure a bird and not find it.
  2. Guy Gregory Active Member

    Posts: 452
    Spokane, WA.
    Ratings: +44 / 0
    Thanks for the thoughtful post.

    The dirty little secret we hunters hold is that wounded game gets away. It doesn't go to is consumed by predators, scavengers, or the other animals that do that in the course of things, but the fact remains it wouldn't have happened without you. Ethically, what can you do?

    There's lots of answers here, and lots of strong opinions. It's good that it bothers you. If it didn't, I don't think I'd want to hunt with you.

    First, finding downed game without a dog...very, very hard. I've seen pheasants burrow deep down below tangled stuff, and me and my dog have lost a few. Some things I recommend:

    I agree, use bigger shot and knock 'em down. You're 6's or 7 1/2's will keep.

    Don't hunt the tangled stuff without a dog, you've little to no chance of finding a wounded or a bird not killed instantly, so just don't put yourself in that position.

    Get a dog, even a cross breed, get some pheasant scent and a toy, and they'll be great hunting companions. I've great respect for breeding etc., but I've hunted successfully over mongrels whose owners wanted them to hunt, thus they hunted. You absolutely do not need a gazillion dollars and outside training to have a dog that will flush and retrieve downed birds.

    Count the downed birds towards your limit that day. You killed 'em, you just didn't bring 'em home.

    Hunt with a buddy. Find one with a dog.

    I tend to reflect on each meal of fish or game. To me, they're gifts from God, each bite providing me and mine with sustenance, and also with a connection to the natural world and the habits of practices of my ancestors. We all lost birds or deer or fish. When it happens do what you've done: question your practice, act ethically and with respect to the game and to property, and you'll be alright.
  3. Jmills81 The Dude Abides

    Posts: 1,900
    Spokane, WA
    Ratings: +143 / 0
    i started pheasant hunting without a dog, you do have to do it a bit differently

    first, change the way you walk the fields. Those big legged birds want to run and hold way more they want to fly.

    When walking, walk in a zig zag pattern or big wide S's to confuse the birds to where you're going. Then, this is key...stop and pause for a bit. You walk by a ton of birds that are right under your foot, and that pause will get them nervous and into the air. Next, hunt the conver strategically. If you're by yourself, find something that will serve as blocker, like a fence row, a plowed edge, etc. this will direct the birds to hold long enough for you to get to them. if you can hunt with a buddy, work in a tandem as a driver/blocker and pinch together. Works great!

    As for shot...go big with high base magnums. Winchester DoubleX Mags in 6 work great and as you roll into late season, go to 5's and 4's. Pheasants aren't quail and need a charge to bring them down. I find it better to clean a heavily shot bird than it is to loose a bird you work hard to find and shoot...then cannot find
  4. Gary Thompson dirty dog

    Posts: 3,891
    East Wenatchee, WA
    Ratings: +131 / 0
    Good post Troutrageous
    I have hit two birds this season that were not recovered and I have dogs. These birds did not hit the ground and I couldn't where they landed.
    Wounded birds escape, breaks my little heart. Stuff happens.
    When I was first hunt pheasant I didn't have a dog and I'm really surprised at how few I lost.
    One thing for sure was I didn't shoot quail without a dog.
  5. Steve Call Active Member

    Posts: 1,566
    Wetside, WA
    Ratings: +188 / 0
    We've all lost wounded birds even with dogs. It is not really a consolation, but in reality they'll become coyote food or dinner for some other predator.

    Wish I still had a dog. Fortunately some friends do, but sometimes hunt on my own. The tactics described above are right on! Also, without a dog you really have to hold off on those long shots.
  6. Troutrageous Active Member

    Posts: 422
    Ratings: +33 / 0
    Thanks guys!
    The good news is that my success in seeing pheasants yesterday helped convinced my buddy Blake to come down today with his relatively new springer spaniel, Otto. Otto was able to find one of the injured birds holding right near where I lost it the day before, so at least one wasn't lost. We also got another rooster later in the day on a different piece of land. It flushed right at our feet. To be honest, we don't know who hit the bird, as our shots were simultaneous, but it went down. And even that one, which I saw fall and got right over to, would probably have been lost without his dog. Lots of pheasants seen today, most of them flushed way ahead of us.
    Otto's first two pheasants though! Maybe Blake can load a picture later.

    Its going to be tough going alone for me, since I have access to some great property, and a strong itch to hunt as much as I can, but I'll up the shot size and alter my strategies a bit to minimize losses. I'll do my parents old lab a favor and bring her sometime, but she's home in Yakima while I work in Dayton, otherwise I would always have her out with me.
    Hope the rest of you (and your dogs) have some good luck out there too.
  7. stewart dee Guest

    Posts: 0
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    4 shot is a good idea (copper plated) and if your on your bird #7 is great "on your bird" (grand-pops words - what a pisser). Down a bird while finding the mark? start there work the area slow while looking careful at the ground. --- start at the last place you seen the bird (Houdini) and make slow circles, walking a circle bigger and bigger while every now and then a pause. The circle game has almost always worked for me before the doggies. Good luck and glad to here your after them!
  8. Blake Harmon Active Member

    Posts: 1,037
    Spokane, Washington
    Ratings: +147 / 0
    Heres one of the scramblers!

    Otto did a real good job getting underneath the tangled stuff to stop the sprinting bird in its tracks. It was awesome to watch.
    Great hunt Boyd!

  9. Rod Wittner Active Member

    Posts: 553
    West Richland, WA
    Ratings: +69 / 1
    My greatest joy pheasant hunting is being out in the field with my dog. Bagging birds is just a bonus. I enjoy being out there with my buddy, watching him work. A good pheasant (or any bird) dog is a pleasure to watch.

    Don't worry about whether you find the bird or not. Get yourself a puppy, either a bird dog breed, or even a cross that has natural instict and talent, and go have a great time together.
  10. ganglyangler Bird Dogs and Fly Rods

    Posts: 464
    Port Gamble WA
    Ratings: +42 / 0
    Nice job on the birds and the second day recovery! Something that has worked well for me is to drop my hat where I made the shot from and try to mentally mark the bird down well. Then I direct the dog into the wind where I think the bird went down. If she is still not finding it, I leave my hat where it is and hunt off for a few minutes. The bird's scent often pools and when we come back she will usually find it. If I can't find it after a good second effort I will loop around and hunt back through the area again later in the day a few more times. Often the bird is there somewhere and sometimes approaching from a different angle seems to help. I hate losing a bird and try very hard to find one if I hit it. Even with a dog, you will eventually lose a bird. I count those in my limit. They hide really, really well when wounded, and can run like a scalded cat. I think pheasants are about as tough as they come. I have seen one folded in the air, bounce when it hit the ground and come up running. I have hit a running bird that my buddy knocked down and saw it roll completely over and keep going. I usually shoot #4 lead out of a modified choke for phez and it does the job, but those buggers are tough! I never consider one dead until its in the vest!
  11. Bob Rankin Active Member

    Posts: 445
    Yakima, WA
    Ratings: +167 / 1
    just got back from north dakota and shot a lot of wild birds in 4 days with my dog.even useing #4 i still lost 3 that hit the ground running. It happens. dont beat your self up.
  12. Upton O Blind hog fisherman

    Posts: 2,167
    out of state now
    Ratings: +217 / 0
    First of all, your concern for losing wounded game is excellent and I'm glad you were open enough to report on it. I've lost a few ducks with my Lab but very few. I don't know your situation but I can only say that getting a good hunting dog increases your enjoyment of the hunting sport, reduces game loss, and will bring more shooting opportunities to you. You will also grow in new areas, particularly in learning to handle a dog in the field, learning to work as a team with the dog, and building a bond with a partner that only wants to spend time with you. Get a good dog: for you, for it, for the game. Get yourself trained along with the dog. You will not regret it.
    Thanks for starting this post and your willingness to be open and honest.
  13. Troutrageous Active Member

    Posts: 422
    Ratings: +33 / 0
    Thanks for the input folks,
    I can certainly assure you all that I will be getting a dog as soon as it is possible. But having just graduated, I am picking up seasonal jobs in different locations, and will probably be going to grad school at some point, so I'll have to hold off until I have a more permanent home. In the meantime I just do my best to bum along with other hunters that do have dogs, and try to decide what breed I like for when I can get one.
  14. Bob Rankin Active Member

    Posts: 445
    Yakima, WA
    Ratings: +167 / 1
    I hunt as offten as I can in yakima on the res with my dog maggie ,hit me up sometime.
  15. Top in my class Member

    Posts: 277
    washington, Spanaway
    Ratings: +23 / 0
    I would love to shot a pheasant my dads shot then but I never have. We are big time duck hunters so we really dont make much room for pheasant hunting.
    My dad would love to take me if you guys would just name a good place in washington.
    So blake were did you shoot that pheasant?

  16. BRYORS Member

    Posts: 145
    Camas, Wa
    Ratings: +3 / 0
    A good dog is a best friend. I hunt with springers. Wonderfull nose but not a setter. Down a bird and it is yours. Labs are waterfoul and pay attention for the dog and the expectations. In thirty years plus hundreds of birds the loss is less than 10 birds. What do you want. Research and dicide. Training takes time and make it fun. If you get into a dog, you will never go back. I cry at the loss of my pups
    when they reach the end.
  17. bushwacker Member

    Posts: 159
    Shoreline, WA
    Ratings: +3 / 0
    Growing up in Idaho in the 50's as a kid I was delighted that my dad went out of his way to take me pheasant hunting. Not typical of him. He would wait until late in the afternoon for me to get out of school before leaving.
    Only later did I realize that I WAS the bird dog. I was still too young to carry a gun, but great at beating through the catails or corn fields kicking up birds. However, unlike a good bird dog, I couldn't find the cripples.

    While not perfect, if you take the time, my experience it that most of the time, the dogs will track down a cripple. The real problem is that ring necks that are shot going directly away are hard to kill. Lots of bony back and few vital organs to hit. That's where a good pointing dog proves so valuable, on point they freeze the pheasant who then erupts vertically, allowing for a good killing head or breast shot.