A fan of Pheasants Forever on Facebook recently posed the following question: "Is it hard to hunt pheasants without a dog?" I believe the answer to this is as easy as adding 2 plus 2. There is no doubt hunting pheasants without a dog is harder; simply no doubt in my mind.
However, there is a question I think provides greater room for debate: "Is it even possible to successfully hunt pheasants without a bird dog?"
First of all, I am a dog guy. Plain and simple, the dog work of a pheasant hunt provides a lot of enjoyment for me in the field. That being said, I do believe I'm unbiased in saying a dog is more important in pheasant hunting than in any other bird hunt. Unlike virtually every other gamebird, a pheasants' first survival instinct leads them to run rather than fly from danger. Consequently, pheasants can run circles around a dogless hunter without providing any indication of its existence. Pheasants are also tough birds to kill in the air. Personally, I am an average shot, and I believe my dog saves at least 90 percent of the birds I cripple from going completely unrecovered.
So back to the question. My answer is a qualified "yes." Here are the four instances I think you can successfully hunt pheasants without a dog:
1) Walking linear cover. Roadsides, drainage ditches, and fence rows create linear habitat a pheasant hunter can walk without a dog until he/she pushes a bird out the end or squeezes one out the side.
2) Small Patches. Same basic principle as walking linear cover. If you can push a small piece of habitat completely surrounded by plowed fields, then your odds of boosting a bird multiplies.
3) The Big Group Push. If you have enough guys to walk close together, it's possible to push a big field and jump the young birds that lack the elusiveness of running around your footsteps.
4) Game Farms & Preserves. There is no doubt that pen-reared birds lack the survival instincts of a wild pheasant that has evaded predation its entire existence.
I'll add two caveats. First, in all four of these scenarios, it's possible to flush a rooster without the assistance of a dog; however, finding a winged bird without a dog is another story all together. Any ethical pheasant hunter entering the field without a bird dog should take great care in making high percentage, quality shots. Second, I would wager a good bird dog will lead to twice as many birds flushed walking these same scenarios as hunting without one.
I'm sure there are dozens of dogless pheasant hunters reading this blog who have harvested wild roosters in vast expanses of cover without the aid of a canine companion . . . Where are the holes in my opinion?
The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing. Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.