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Planning for Pheasant (Part III)

We all love when a plan comes together, but it can't until you make it. Too often pheasant hunters blunder through the fields without a plan.

Now the stage was set. I'd walked along the east edge of the slough, near enough to alert any birds on that edge that would have squirmed deeper into the cover. Then we swooshed through CRP grass on the north side, pushing more birds south into the same dense patch of vegetation. Finally, we walked through the pasture on the west side of that cover, letting our quarry know trouble was in that direction, too, before approaching it from the south and rousting out the narrow belt of trees. What remained was 4 acres of dense wetland vegetation in which huddled what we hoped were dozens of pheasants convinced they were surrounded. Typical behavior at this point would be stick tight or run to an extreme corner and flush wild. There's nothing two men and a dog can do about wild flushes, so we ignored them and took our time, letting Titus use his nose and stopping often to unnerve hidden pheasants, crouching roosters.

"Rooster!" A brown nose came up so close behind the long, warping tail that I had to count one, two, three before leveling the 20-gauge over/under and dumping rooster number one.
"Thanks for not shooting my dog!"
"The least I can do. Behind you!" Greg had heard the flush as well as I and spun to find another bird beating furiously over the tips of cattails gone pale. His 12-gauge coughed and bird number two was on the ground before Titus had fetched number one.
"Looks like they're holding now, eh!"
"Not those two," Greg pointed to the northeast corner where two roosters were flying low and hard toward the east. "Looks like they'll hit the Hell Swamp. Let's finish this."

We pocketed our two birds and started north again, dry reeds crackling underfoot. Inside 20 yards Titus put up another flurry of colorful feathers and I knocked it down with a quick shot. We were halfway to a limit, but then things slowed. Greg got tangled in too-tall cattails as a cock flushed hard to his right. Then two hens broke and flustered him while another rooster escaped out the backside. Sometimes it's hard to pinpoint the rush of wings amid several, particularly when the wind is blowing. The trick is to tear your eyes off the hens quickly and scan all around, turning full circle if you must.

There was a lull after that as we carved a zigzag through the cover, moving no more birds until we pinched the northeast corner where the two ringnecks had escaped earlier. Here Titus went birdy, his thick tail swatting bulrushes as he charged ahead. I kept my eyes on the far edge of grass, anticipating an illusive cock bird trying to sneak out in low flight. But Greg caught the flush from a dense tangle of bulrushes practically under his boots as a young rooster finally fled. It didn't get far.
The farm now had but two locations worth hunting, one a small wetland along the highway-isolated by a plowed field and rarely productive-and the Swamp Hell, always full of birds. We had no option but to hike a quarter-mile of naked field to reach it. Then it was a matter of stomping up the birds, which could sneak and crawl and run anywhere they chose.

"Why don't I get the truck and drive it down the east side of the Swamp, park at the south and, and work toward the northwest corner?" Greg suggested. "You come in from there and we'll pinch them."

That sounded right. Hearing the truck along the east would encourage birds to shift to the west side and away from the neighbor's land to the east. We wanted any we missed to return to our property if possible.

"Better yet," I added, I'll take the fenceline clear to the east corner and cut back along the north edge. That'll reinforce the message and chase them west. You come north kinda up the middle, but zigzag toward the east edge now and then, I'll do the same down to the south. Then we'll both push toward the west edge and work it back to the truck."

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