COCKBIRD QUEST!!!
By Montana Grant

Posted: October 16, 2022

Pheasant hunters are an old breed. Years ago, it seemed like fields were full of hunters, but birds were also abundant. Weather, changes in CRP laws, and pressure have changed pheasant hunting.

Back in the day, Pennsylvania had superb rooster hunting. Not anymore. Maryland, along with all the states across the country to Washington had the same. This amazing non-native bird was at home in North America. Many young hunters cut their upland bird teeth on cock birds!

Times have changed. Nonnative pheasants originated in the Orient. They were first released in the Willamette Valley of Washington state, in the late 1800’s. Since then, they have been distributed across a band of North America. Stocked birds soon adapted and found a way to survive. Populations are in decline due to changes in agriculture. Larger tractors and equipment meant the removal of fence rows and hedges. Frequent hay and grass mowing destroys nests and reproduction. Avian flu and other illnesses take their toll. Seed drills have taken the place of plows. Herbicides and insecticides destroy plants/ cover and food for the birds. There is also more development and fewer vacant or abandoned farms.

Some western states, like Montana, still have wild birds but access to habitat is an issue. CRP and other wildlife programs have been reduced. Harsh Winters or Spring floods can wipe out the birds, and cover. Public lands are over hunted and not stocked.

States used to promote predator control. Nest robbers, raptors, foxes, feral cats, and other critters that reduced game bird populations were trapped or removed. Today, pheasants, rabbits, quail, huns, and all game is at the mercy of Nature’s predators.

The thrill of a flushing and cackling rooster is unsurpassed. I have watched great skeet and trap shooters empty their shotguns at a chip shot ringneck. They just get too excited. Hunting over a pointer or flushing dog is the best. Pheasants are also tasty and can be prepared in many delicious ways.

Hunter safety is also a concern. Inexperienced hunters can cause an accident to other hunters, dogs, or… Things get exciting fast and not every hunter can manage their energy or see everything they need to before pulling the trigger. Not all states, like Montana, require Hunter Orange to be worn. A orange hat and or vest should be mandatory for safety in all states.

Some hunters I know are lousy shots at birds on the wing, so they shoot birds on the ground. What is the point? This is also dangerous to any dogs in the field.

Pheasant hunting is simply beautiful. Trekking through bird cover especially with a dog, is awesome. When birds flush, you will always get excited. It just never gets old. Harvesting pheasants means a special meal and a wonderful memory. Being a great hunter means that you are ethical, a practiced marksman, and in good shape.

Cackle away!

Montana Grant