From the time I gingerly shut my truck door to the moment I unleash my springer, I've always tried to hunt pheasants as quietly as possible. Given that the birds tend to run or flush wild, I figure, wouldn't stealth equate to more flushes, not to mention more flushes within shotgun range? And I've wondered whether the common practice of placing bells on bird dogs to track them afield might spook birds. Anthony Hauck of Pheasants Forever recently delved into this very topic, writing:
"I don’t use an e-collar on my English cocker spaniel, as, the occasional straight-line runner notwithstanding, she’s usually in gun range. I’ve ran her with a bell this entire season, on public and private land, areas with great pheasant numbers, areas with so-so pheasant numbers and areas with just a bird or two. I realize it’s my own two eyes and a small sample size, but I honestly haven’t seen anything that would lead me to believe her bell is causing birds to bust out early."
Hauck goes on to provide further evidence—although he admits to its anecdotal nature—that a bell likely has little effect on pheasants. His blog entry is worth the full read.
Perhaps a bell, like a gently applied whistle, can be tolerated by roosters far more greatly than, for instance, the human voice. In any event, Hauck has no plans to discontinue using one:
I’ve actually come to enjoy the bell, its addition a soothing sound to the hunt. And if it’s use really does cost me a bird here or there? Well, at least I know where my pup is at all times. Because the thought of anything happening to her on a hunt other than flushing and retrieving is spooky enough.
Do you hunt with a bell and, regardless, do you think its ringing is disruptive to pheasants?