Like iron filings to a magnet – or teenie-boppers to a Justin Bieber concert – I find myself almost inexplicably drawn to the ring-necked pheasant. As October nears its end my mind centers more and more on the bird that wears autumn in its feathers.
Make no mistake I love the chaos of a bobwhite covey, sing praises for the noble prairie chicken and sometimes swear at the devious sharp-tailed grouse. However, when the final Saturday of the month arrives I have tunnel vision for the pheasant. This Saturday will be no different and I will not be alone.
With a strong foundation built on opening days past, and the anticipation of the unknown adventures of a new season, my brother and I will be in the field at first light. Along with us, our significant others and a couple of kids all decked out in blaze orange – and a pack of spaniels.
It takes the right habitat to have pheasants. Both are getting a little more scarce in recent years. Which makes each rooster even more special. Knowing what a pheasant needs for survival and where it can be found helps the hunter.
We will begin our Saturday where the birds have spent the night – in the thicker cover often found in the low spots where protection from predators and weather is best. From there we will follow the roosters to the grassy areas around and in the their kitchens of corn, beans, wheat and milo. As the afternoon warmth arrives its time to hit the grassy margins around field edges, hillsides and other light cover spots. In the evening its back to the thicker cover where the birds will return before last light.
Then its back to camp to relive the hunt, retell the stories of past openers and plan for the next morning when we get to do it all over again. Have a happy and safe opening day.