From waterfowl, snipe and cranes to pheasant, grouse and partridge, the Prairie provinces offer wingshooters unparalleled opportunities
Pheasants are another introduced bird on the prairies. Like Hungarian partridge, they’ve been here for more than a century, but there’s no mistaking these long-tailed, garish birds for a native. Still, we love them. In fact, more corporate logos in southern Saskatchewan and Alberta honour the pheasant than any other creature.
The reasons for our love affair with pheasants are pretty simple. For one, they are beautiful, and they’re terrific on the table. They’re also relatively slow flyers and therefore easy targets. That makes them the perfect game for introducing beginners to hunting; for many novices, our other birds or big game are simply a bridge too far.
Pheasants haven’t adapted to our climate as well as Huns have, and their populations are often supplemented by released birds. Don’t poo-poo those programs—they’re perfect for beginning hunters and dogs. And when raised properly, released pheasants will run, flush and fly as well as a wild rooster. They’re also well-suited to hunters in the twilight of their career, looking for that one last bird to harvest.
Slow-flying ringnecks are perfect for novice shooters
That’s not to say pheasants are necessarily an easy bird to hunt. They’re cautious by nature, quick to associate the sound of vehicles and people with danger, and they’d rather run than fly. To be consistently successful, you must design and execute a game plan that not only takes into consideration where you expect the birds to hold, but also where you expect them to run to once they’ve sensed something’s up.
Ringnecks are most often found where quality food sources (cereal grains or corn,) dense grass (for nesting) and protective cover from weather and predators (shelterbelts, ditch banks, brushy coulees or cattail sloughs) are found in close proximity to each other. They can be hunted without dogs, but well-trained canines offer a significant advantage.
Pheasants don’t consistently hold for points, so expect numerous false points. Trust your dog, however, and let him have his nose. Push all cover to the very end, and don’t be surprised if several birds erupt at once.