According to a DNR wildlife research biologist, pheasants follow a schedule as routine as your daily commute to and from work. Understanding the pheasant’s daily movements can increase your odds of flushing a rooster.
“Pheasants start their day before sunrise at roost sites, usually in areas of short- to medium-height grass or weeds, where they spend the night.” That’s the word from Dick Kimmel, research biologist at the DNR Farmland Wildlife Research and Populations Station at Madelia. Kimmel says that at first light, pheasants head for roadsides or similar areas where they can find gravel or grit.
Pheasants usually begin feeding around 8 a.m. When shooting hours begin an hour later, the birds are still feeding, often in grain fields while cautiously making their way toward safe cover. “Look for the edges of picked cornfields,” says Kimmel, who regularly hunts southwestern Minnesota with his English setter, Banjo.
By mid-morning, pheasants have left the fields for the densest, thickest cover they can find, such as a standing corn, federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) fields, brush patches, wetlands, or native grasses. Kimmel says the birds will “hunker down here for the day until late afternoon.”
It’s next to impossible for small hunting groups of two to three hunters to work large fields of standing corn. Pheasants often run to avoid predators, a response that frustrates dogs and hunters working corn, soybean, and alfalfa fields. Groups of two or three hunters usually have better success working grass fields, field edges, or fencerows. Other likely spots during midday are ditch banks and deep into marshes. Remember: The nastier the weather, the deeper into cover the pheasant will go.
But eventually, pheasants have to eat again. During the late afternoon, the birds move from their loafing spots back to the feeding areas. As in the morning, birds now are easier to spot from a distance and are more accessible to hunters. “That’s why the first and last shooting hours are consistently the best times to hunt pheasants,” Kimmel adds.