How to make any pheasant shot

Large, conspicuous pheasants carry a convenient white target around their necks and often approach. We must not miss them. We all do. For one thing, that frantic flush unnerves the hunters, and they shoot in a panicked rush. Once airborne, pheasants are faster than they appear in the open spaces where they live, sometimes reaching speeds of up to 60 mph.

And, not every shot at pheasants is a direct hit on a bird that drops out of the grass below your feet. Pheasants give you a variety of shots that we can break down into five basic odds. Here’s how to do it all:

1. The Going Away Shot

The bird that flushes close is one of the most made and missed shots in pheasant hunting. It’s surprising, but remember, the first thing you need to do is positively identify the bird as a rooster. Take that moment to gather some composure and move the gun to a ready position, muzzle at the bird, stock tucked under your arm. Now you are prepared.

You have plenty of time in this shot. Most people who miss it are in a hurry. Before you shoulder the gun, look at the bird. Leave it slightly protruding so that your pattern opens up. Try to fix your eyes on the head, then make the first move by pushing the gun towards the bird so you don’t catch it in the armpit as you raise the pole to your face and shoot without riding on the target and aiming.

2. Wild flushes

A pheasant streaming twenty or more yards away not only adds distance to the problem, but often a quarter angle as well. On the plus side, not only does this bird have a target on its neck, but it has a long tail sticking out the other end that helps you read the angle. Pass the gun through the tail feathers, body, up to the head and pull the trigger as you pass the ring. Keep your gun below the bird so you can always see it, and think about moving your gun fast enough to catch and pass. One of the main causes of misses is swinging the gun too quickly.

If the bird flushes wildly and takes off immediately, it’s the same shot as the bird at your feet, but requires a smaller, more subtle movement. This immediately requires judgment on your part. I’ll go with long passes, but I’ll go straight over about thirty yards, as the bird’s vitals are protected and it’s easy to cripple a long bird at once.

Man carrying dead pheasants in a truck.
Remember these five shots and you’ll bring home more birds. James Castle via Getty Images

3. Crossing below the line

The bird that blushes and then turns to wave past the line may not be the bird that gets missed the most, but it’s definitely the one that gets the most shells thrown as everyone in line gets a crack at it. . When it comes to you, you have three choices: pass it from behind; point the gun at the muzzle and pull forward to get your bullet; or, start the gun in front of the bird, adjust its speed and shoot.

All of these methods work. In all three cases, you should move the gun slowly and keep it slightly below the line of flight. And, most important of all, you must keep your eyes on the bird’s beak even as the gun comes forward. This is difficult for many people to do, as the natural tendency is to aim below the ribcage. Doing so leads to back shots, which is why those turkeys that do get away so often.

4. Massive flush at the end of the car

In the traditional hammer-and-anvil pheasant hunting maneuver, the line of walkers moves toward the waiting blockers, trapping the birds between them until there is a mass flow of birds heading in all directions. There are also a lot of people in a small area right now, so don’t forget safety first. Keep your muzzle up and shoot birds only if you can see the sky below them.

If a flush of a pheasant can unsettle a hunter, twenty birds in the air can be pure sensory overload. Choose a bird, preferably one without a chicken next to or behind it. Find the bird, find the white ring, shoot and stick with it for a second shot if you miss. Resist shooting more than twice. Third shots rarely succeed, and that way your gun is still loaded if a lighter bird presents itself. There are usually people in those big reds and you’d hate to be standing there with an empty gun.

Read more: Dial in your gun, choke and load before the season

5. Rooster in the forest

Sometimes the snow and late-season cold drive pheasants who love grass to timber surfaces and stream bottoms, where they can find shelter in brush and blowdown. Birds will perch hard and often rise steeply to get up and out of trees. For some reason, turkeys in the woods are my pheasant shooting weakness, but the shooting doesn’t have to be as difficult as I make it.

The bullet is on the bird, and you have to sweep the pheasant down the barrel so you can’t see it when you pull the trigger. The range should be so close that all you have to do is raise the gun, cover your head, and fire. It really is that simple, even if it gives me fits.

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