Pheasant, despite being 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, granted – albeit often with a sense of humor and of disguised admiration, but none the less derogatory in nature. Grouse hunters, like ourselves, often end up the most frequent transgressors favoring the hunting style of ruffed grouse thickets, and aspen stands full of the nestled and noble timberdoodle, ringing true the statement that your heart is where your home is. That being said, regardless our preference of 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 U.S, in fact, chances are many of us are a fairly short drive from decent pheasant hunting land at this very moment. For this reason, however not the only, 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: Being able to have fairly consistent success without a dog, (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. We would find later the ear-to-ear-to-heart smile worn after that pheasant found it’s way from the sky into our small vest’s bird bag, would be among the most difficult to get off our faces, and to forget with 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 often the 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, igniting passion for the outdoors in new and seasoned hunters alike, being widely available for all, and being a bird that you can chase with strategies friendly to any hunting style – this is an impressive feat for what once was an underdog – for a species I fondly consider to be the unsung hero of upland hunting.