It’s a simple question. Can you hunt pheasant without a bird dog? The simple answer is yes. Simple doesn’t always mean good. I’ve had enough experience hunting pheasant to know that a question like this deserves some consideration.
First of all, I am a dog guy. Plain and simple, the dog work of a pheasant hunt provides a good 60 percent of the enjoyment for me in the field. That being said, I do believe I’m unbiased in saying a dog is more important in pheasant hunting than in any other bird hunt. Unlike virtually every other game bird, a pheasants’ first survival instinct leads them to run rather than fly from danger. Consequently, pheasants can run circles around a dogless hunter without providing any indication of its existence. Pheasants are also tough birds to kill in the air. Personally, I am an average shot, and I believe my dog saves at least 90 percent of the birds I cripple from going completely unrecovered.
So back to the question. My answer is a qualified “yes.” Here are the four instances I think you can successfully hunt pheasants without a dog:
- Walking linear cover. Roadsides, drainage ditches, and fence rows create linear habitat a pheasant hunter can walk without a dog until he/she pushes a bird out the end or squeezes one out the side.
- Small Patches. Same basic principle as walking linear cover. If you can push a small piece of habitat completely surrounded by plowed fields, then your odds of boosting a bird multiplies.
- The Big Group Push. If you have enough guys to walk close together, it’s possible to push a big field and jump the young birds that lack the elusiveness of running around your footsteps.
- Game Farms & Preserves. There is no doubt that pen-reared birds lack the survival instincts of a wild pheasant that has evaded predation its entire existence.
I’ll add two caveats. First, in all four of these scenarios, it’s possible to flush a rooster without the assistance of a dog; however, finding a winged bird without a dog is another story all together. Any ethical pheasant hunter entering the field without a bird dog should take great care in making high percentage, quality shots. Second, I would wager a good bird dog will lead to twice as many birds flushed walking these same scenarios as hunting without one.