The only thing I like more than a good pheasant hunt is a great pheasant hunt and one thing that can turn a good pheasant hunt into a great pheasant hunt is hunting in a new local.

With paddle in hand and life vest strapped to my chest, my bird dog and I shoved off the canoe from the launch in search of pheasants.

At first it sounded odd to this flatlander too, but to a Montana pheasant hunter it is part of the norm.  You see, the river bottoms and islands along the Missouri River near Fort Benton, Montana provide excellent habitat and the nation’s most picturesque pheasant hunting backdrop.  I was so completely in awe of the cliffs and canyons that I emptied both barrels of my Beretta without fluffing a feather of the first rooster that flushed from our maiden island stop (at least that’s the excuse I’ve been floating).

Quickly after I regained my sea legs, my Federal Upland Steel PF load found its way to a flushing rooster trying to escape up a canyon’s ledge to the farmland above.  Like a buffer strip in Minnesota’s farm country, the pheasants spend their days feeding on the waste grain from the crop fields, while roosting and loafing in the grassy confines near riparian areas.  The only difference is that in “Big Sky” country, the riparian areas are a bungee plunge away from the dinner table.

It was truly a thrilling hunt that filled a memory card of pictures and emptied a pocket of shells.  Any pheasant hunter looking for a new adventure in the spirit of Lewis & Clark should absolutely put this experience on their “bucket list.”

Tips for hunting in Mighty Montana

  • Learn about all the hunting and history opportunities of the area at Montana’s Russell Country.
  • Stay right on the river at the historic Grand Union Hotel.  It’s a “Wild West” version of the Saint Paul Hotel.  Like the Saint Paul Grille, the Grand Union Hotel also features a gourmet dining experience capable of satisfying the most discerning appetites.
  • Book your canoe rental with Adventure Bound Canoe & Shuttle or take a guided tour with Missouri River Outfitters or Lewis & Clark Canoe Expeditions.
  • Buy your hunting license and Federal PF Loads at Lehman True Value Hardware right on Main Street.
  • Pick up a cowboy hat at River Bend Base Camp.
  • Know your Montana trespass laws and work with the locals to make sure you hunt the public islands.  Some islands are privately owned and you’ll need permission to chase roosters

Get out to Big Sky country next pheasant season and, hopefully, you can have an experience as great as I did.


Photo:Ken Lund

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