How to Get Started Pheasant Hunting

Walking the uplands in search of pheasants is a singular outdoor experience. Photo by Derek Stoner.

Heart pounding and thoughts racing, the hunter approaches the dog that is locked onto the scent of a pheasant hiding in the tall grass. Gripping the wooden stock of her shotgun a little tighter, the hunter approaches the dog from the side and attempts to spot the pheasant tucked into its grassy lair. A feathered eruption bursts through the brown vegetation and the rooster rockets away with a blur of wingbeats. The blast of a shotgun cuts short its escape and the fallen pheasant is eagerly scooped up by the hunting dog and brought back to the excited hunter. A smile crosses her face as she cradles her first pheasant in her arms.

Each Fall throughout Pennsylvania, more than 60,000 hunters head afield in pursuit of pheasants. The birds are grown on game farms operated by the Pennsylvania Game Commission and then released at more than 200 locations statewide. Almost a quarter-million pheasants are stocked each season, providing hunters with outstanding upland hunting, a great social experience, and delicious table fare.

Getting started as a new pheasant hunter need not be complicated. The equipment required is relatively simple and can be utilized for other types of small game hunting.

Practicing trap shooting at clay targets flying away is a good simulation of pheasant hunting. Photos by Derek Stoner.

A shotgun (pump, semi-automatic, over-under, or side-by-side) in 12 or 20 gauge is the right choice in firearm for hunting pheasants, and shotshells loaded with size 6 shot are ideal for cleanly killing these medium-sized gamebirds. Find a shooting range near you that offers trap (or sporting clay) shooting, and make sure to practice for a few rounds with an instructor or other firearms-savvy person guiding you.

In order to be safe and follow the regulations pertaining to small game hunting, you must wear a blaze orange top (shirt, vest, or jacket) and blaze orange hat. A sturdy pair of hiking boots, quality field pants and a comfortable long-sleeved shirt are all else you need to complete your upland hunting attire.

The Pheasant Permit is required for anyone planning to pursue pheasants in Pennsylvania, and helps to support the rearing and stocking of these popular gamebirds.

An energetic bird dog makes the hunting adventure more fun. Photo by Derek Stoner.

As the opening paragraph alluded to, hunting with a dog makes the pheasant hunting experience extra special. There are a multitude of dog breeds that do very well with upland birds like pheasants, and it’s fun to follow a well-trained bird dog in the field. To learn more about how you could get involved in pheasant hunting with a dog, groups like the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVHDA) are worth connecting with in order to meet people dedicated to upland hunting.

A brilliant-colored male pheasant flying hard with its long tail feathers streaming behind. Photo by Derek Stoner.

The pheasant season in Pennsylvania opens on Saturday, October 23, 2021. The season then runs through November 26, and this week for the first time includes two Sundays: November 14 and November 21. The season reopens on December 13 and runs to December 24. The final segment of the season runs from December 27, 2021 to February 28, 2022.

Be sure to treat yourself this season to the thrill of the pheasant hunting. Once you’ve felt the rush of the flush, you will want to keep returning for more of the same.

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