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Must-do hunt: The fantastic pheasants of Ontario’s Pelee Island

Where ringnecks reign

Gun for pheasants in the middle of Lake Erie? For hunters in the know, Pelee Island is THE place to go

That first shot is always the most important, your chance to set the tone. When hunting in a new place, with people you don’t know, there’s a certain pressure to prove your mettle, to show you deserve the privilege of hunting their grounds. And it’s not meet-the-parents nervousness. It’s more like the-jury-is-back anxiety.

Fortunately, I had little time to think about that when that first cackling Pelee Island pheasant launched from cover about 30 metres out. Reacting on pure instinct, I shouldered my shotgun, pushed the stacked barrels out in front of the crossing bird and hit the switch. The rooster crumpled mid-air and had barely tumbled back to the ground before he was firmly in the grasp of the Labrador that had rousted him from his hideaway.

It was the first flush and I’d passed the test. Of course, as the rest of that day and the next revealed, I was more than capable of missing gimme shots, but nothing settles the nerves like getting out of the gate without stumbling—especially when you’re on a fabled, bucket-list hunt like this.

Ken Bailey

Ken Bailey

An all-around hunter, Ken Bailey enjoys pursuing waterfowl the most. Based in Edmonton, Outdoor Canada's longtime hunting editor Ken Bailey has hunted every major Canadian game animal, in every corner of the country. For many years, he’s shared his deep knowledge of game behaviour, and wide expertise with all manner of firearms with OC's readers. His work has been recognized numerous times by both the Outdoor Writers of Canada and the National Magazine Awards. Ken is a committed conservationist, dedicated to habitat preservation, sustainable harvests, and passing along our hunting heritage to the next generation. He's also an avid fly fisherman, and a pretty darn good game chef.