The Pheasant, a non-native species, is an American classic game bird.
Ditch carp. Ditch chickens. Prairie parrots. Ditch parrots. We’ve heard and read our share of creative terms folks have used for pheasants. And though we take them with a sense of humor and disguised admiration, they are nonetheless derogatory. Grouse hunters like ourselves often end up being the most frequent bullies. We favor the hunting style of ruffed grouse thickets and aspen stands full of the nestled and noble timberdoodle. The statement that your heart is where your home is rings true. But regardless of our preference for quarry, pheasants of all game birds in our nation deserve a good deal of credit for their contributions to the growth of our beloved sport and upland hunting culture as a whole.
Pheasants are located in nearly every state in the United States. Chances are good that many of us are a fairly short drive from decent pheasant hunting land at this very moment. For this reason, they are often some of our first targets as fledgling bird hunters. Many of us find them a pleasure to hunt on the basis of their easiness. You are able to have fairly consistent success without a dog on (sometimes) easily navigable terrain and the ability to scout large sections of land with nothing but a public lands map, gravel roads, and a good pair of binoculars.
For many of us, myself included, our upland hunting journey began at a young age, scrambling to bring an oversized shotgun to bare, bathed in the shadow of furiously beating wings and a dangling longtail. The ear-to-ear smile worn after that pheasant found it’s way into our small vest’s bird bag is among the most difficult to get off our faces. And it’s one of the most difficult to forget through the degradation of years. A fortunate few had our fire lit the moment we completed firearms safety.
Youth here in Minnesota are often given the option to go to a game farm and shoot their first pheasant over a dog after successfully completing a firearms safety course. These treasured first time hunting experiences are of paramount importance in igniting passion within the next generation of hunters for the sport, in both the participation and preservation of it.
Originally brought to the U.S from Asia in the 1800s, ring-necked pheasants today number in the millions and can be found across most of the country, surviving in a variety of climates and environments, making them easily among the most sought after of all upland birds. Pheasants have actually done something quite extraordinary by thriving as a non-native species. They ignite passion for the outdoors in new and seasoned hunters alike and are widely available for all. You can chase them with strategies friendly to any hunting style, too. All that is an impressive feat for what once was an underdog, a species I fondly consider to be the unsung hero of upland hunting.
Last modified: April 26, 2018