By now, you’re either celebrating your application season or wondering how you’ll escape the chaos of life and make it outside to disconnect this season. It’s no secret that tags are getting harder to obtain, opportunities continue to decrease for non- residents, and we’re left wondering how we’ll plan a great season year after year. While Huntin’ Fool is known for western big game hunting information, it’s important to find new ways to “fill our cup,” even if it’s outside of our comfort zone a bit. After all, a day spent outdoors is better than any day in the office. I’d encourage any outdoorsman to keep an open mind and try new hunts each year to offset the struggles of drawing that deer or elk tag you’ve been banking on year after year. Times are changing, but we can always adapt!
When the opportunity came around to go on an all-women’s pheasant hunt in South Dakota, I jumped! I’m a sucker for an all- women’s hunt of any kind, especially when it involves Kirstie Pike, Prois Founder and CEO. Meeting other women in the outdoors has been a huge focus for me over the years because it creates a bond unlike any other. When you struggle together and find success together in nature, all while eliminating the trivial things in life, that’s when the magic happens.
While a shotgun isn’t completely foreign to me, I admit that it typically sits under my bed for 12+ months at a time. Then I pull it out and attempt to remember how to properly shoulder, lead, and follow through on a shot. I’d compare it to a newborn giraffe learning how to walk. OK, maybe not that bad, but it’s not pretty! My love for archery hunting runs deep, so everything else seems to fall behind that.
I’d been exposed to a quail hunt here and there over the years, but having the chance to go on a true, authentic pheasant hunt was really special. First of all, I’d never seen a pheasant in person or learned the history of how they were introduced into the United States, so I had a lot to absorb in a few short days. I’m not sure what I loved most – the incredible group of women who quickly evolved from strangers to friends, the top-notch amenities, or the well-trained dogs that were a part of every bird we were able to connect with. This is such a great filler hunt in between those big game hunts that take a little bit more planning. I’m drawn to the simplicity of this experience because you only need a handful of key items to have a great time. Below are my must-haves, including a couple of items I wish I would have brought!
WHAT TO BRING ON A PHEASANT HUNT
Brush Pants: I’m quite the snob when it comes to pants of any kind, and I can’t say enough good things about the Prois Pradlann Field Pant. I’d recommend going down a full size, as stated in the description on their website. I’ve continued to wear these on other hunts throughout the year because of the fit and durability.
Gaiters: Although the pants do a great job while walking through brush, I like the additional layer below my knees for thicker brush or walking through snow as well as keeping debris out of my shoes. I’m just a fan of gaiters in general. For what it’s worth, the guides had gaiters on, too.
Chapstick: You will regret not having some, trust me. The wind was brutal and it’s normal for people to drink less water when it’s cold, resulting in even dryer skin and lips.
Moisturizer: Again, your skin will thank you after it takes a beating in the wind. My face was very chapped, and my hands were super dry.
Hunting Vest: I didn’t bring my own, mostly because it was my first pheasant hunt and I don’t like buying a bunch of gear if I don’t have to. If you’re going guided, the dogs will take the birds to the guides, so you won’t need to have a vest. However, I could have used the extra space for all the shells I went through.
Shotgun: I have no business recommending a specific shotgun for this hunt, but I can tell you my personal experience. I went through two boxes of shells trying to hit a bird with my 12-gauge Benelli Super Vinci, and then I picked up a 20-gauge Beretta and smoked four birds on the last day. It was the owner’s wife’s gun, so it was smaller and much more comfortable. My very first shot connected with a bird. The point is that you need to use a gun that fits you well.
Shells: If you’re going through an outfitter, they will usually sell you some. Keep in mind that ammo has been difficult to get since COVID hit, so check with the outfitter before you make the trip. If you’re a rookie, then take several boxes. If you’re a decent shot, still take several boxes. It never hurts to have extra, and with the wind behind those birds, they move fast.
Gloves: I learned something the hard way. I took a thin pair of Merino wool gloves and some thicker ones to layer over them. I only wore one of the thicker gloves on the hand that braced my gun and kept my trigger finger free with the thin glove so that I could load shells and easily pull the trigger. I kept a hand warmer in my pocket to keep that hand from going numb in between shots. After loading too many shells to count, I ended up ripping the thinner pair because it would snag when I’d push a shell in. The solution? I’d recommend a skintight leather glove that’s protective but still allows you to use your fingers paired with some hand warmers in your pockets to squeeze when necessary.
Hand Warmers: As mentioned above, it helps to keep them in your pocket. I don’t think you can have too many hand warmers on any late season hunt. I took some toe warmers, too, but didn’t end up using them because we walked enough that my feet never got cold.
Neck Gaiter or Scarf: I’m a firm believer that when your hands, feet, or neck are cold, everything is cold. It is unreal how much of a difference quality neck protection can make. For this reason, I almost always wear a scarf when I’m hunting, even during early season archery elk hunts on those cool mornings.
Hunter Orange: I wore an orange hat, and several of the girls had orange shirts and vests on. There are so many orange accessories to choose from these days, from beanies to long sleeves to backpacks. Just make sure you wear orange for safety and check the state regulations so you’re within the law.
Ear Protection: I used disposable ear protection that you can get anywhere, but there are some much nicer options out there if you shoot often.
Sunglasses: I have the most sensitive eyes around, but even if I didn’t, it’s a good idea to keep eye protection on you when shooting. At times, you may have to look right into the sun while aiming at a bird. This can make it difficult to see, so having a pair of sunglasses is a must while pheasant hunting. Also, if you think you’ll be hunting in the snow, take it a step further and make sure they’re polarized. The reflection of the sun off the snow is brutal.
A GOOD ATTITUDE: This one is priceless, and it will make the hunt more enjoyable, especially if you don’t shoot much, like me.