“Cock!!!!” by Montana Grant
By angelamontana


Bird hunters are again able to stand in a corn or wheat field and yell “Cock”! This rite of passage occurs during the annual Pheasant hunting season. If you yelled “Cock” at other times of the year, you may be arrested.

kyles roosterPheasant hunting is an extremely exciting sport. Hunters can, generally, only harvest a male pheasant or “Rooster”. These brightly colored birds weigh less than 5 lbs. but can sound like a B-17 when flushing or taking off. Hunters are often surprised and at a loss for words. A quick, one syllable, word is best so that all hunters are aware of a legal target. The one syllable word, “COCK” is all that is needed to get the groups attention.

The Ring Necked Pheasant is a Chinese import that has made American grain fields their home. Since one male pheasant, or “Cockbird”, can mate with dozens of female pheasants, “Cocks” can be harvested by hunters. Daily limits are 1-3 birds a day. “Roosters” cackle when erupting into the air. Their beautiful coloration is an excellent camouflage and allows them to hide in a minimum of cover.

Hunting pheasants with a dog is great sport. Having a dog is better than a good hunting buddy. They are also great at finding these easy to lose targets. There is just something special about a dog at full point showing you where the bird is supposed to be. After a close inspection, you swear there is nothing in the cover and suddenly a rooster explodes at your feet. Taking a shot is hard when your heart is beating a mile a minute.

Shooting a pheasant is tough even if you can stay calm. When a “Cock” erupts from the cover, calm is not a word that comes to mind. The key to good shooting is to keep the shotgun moving. I use # 6 shot in a Magnum load. Most shots are in close range so an improved cylinder is a good choice especially if you plan to eat the bird.

Most misses occur because we shoot too quickly. If you think for a second, “what a chip shot”, you will miss. Keep the gun moving and swing with every shot.

When you hit a pheasant, mark the downed location. Finding downed birds without a dog can be tough. I usually go directly to where the Cock fell without taking my eyes from the exact spot. I then drop my orange hat and start to make circles around the site. Patience will pay off. Follow up every bird. Pheasants are too wonderful to lose.

Good trap and skeet hunters are not always good field shots. I have found that Sporting Clays is more realistic to hunting shots, and is great practice. I call for the targets with the shotgun un-shouldered and mount the gun when I see the target. The only thing missing is the adrenaline rush from a cackling rooster exploding in front of you!

Safety in the field, when pheasant hunting is paramount! Always wear a fluorescent orange hat and vest. The dog needs to have an orange collar and bell as well. You need to see and hear every hunter. Things happen fast when a Cock bursts from the cover. You need to process immediately where everyone is and make a safe shot.

Pheasant hunting Buddies may be the toughest to find. I can count on one hand the Pheasant hunting Buddies I trust completely. You can’t apologize for a wounded dog or worse. No Pheasant is worth an accident. When any hunter yells “NO”, everyone needs to not shoot. There is always another pheasant to find, but friends and dogs are more important.

Pheasants are wonderful table fare. I find Italian Salad Dressing to be a perfect marinate. Use the breasts as you would chicken. The legs work great in soups. The feathers are great for tying flies. This wild bird is not as tender as a fat farm raised chicken, but somehow just tastes better. I dress the birds in the field and cool them down quickly. Remove their innards and place them in your game bag. The look of tail feathers sticking out of your vest is a mark of a successful hunter. Have a cooler at the truck so you can ice the catch down as quickly as possible.

Each year I place a single cockbird feather in a vase for every downed bird. Each tail feather and memory is different. The patterns vary from location and age. I am amazed at how beautiful these birds are. Of all the hunting I have done, the excitement of a flushing “Cock” has never disappointed me. My dogs and I can’t wait for the next hunt.

Hunt Safe!

Montana Grant

Montana Grant Pic

(Written by Montana Grant; Photo: Montana Grant)






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