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Thread: Hunting a field two consecutive days??

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
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    Front Range, CO
    Posts
    6

    Default Hunting a field two consecutive days??

    I suppose this is more of a two part question for the folks here. Over the last several seasons, I have really been trying to better understand bird behavior and daily "routines" in attempt to try make the most of my time afield- especially as it pertains to the Golden Hour. I seem to walk CRP fields and then see birds piling out of cut crops on my drive back probably 20 min after legal shooting....other times, I walk cut crop edges trying to push birds into CRP and I see/hear birds already in the grass. I can't quite crack the code on the Golden Hour.

    It likely doesn't matter, but this scenario occurred at a parcel of CRP (WIHA) in western Kansas. This particular field is surrounded by cut crops on 3 sides and has some decent CRP on the 4th side- all private. I have hunted this field as a first field in the morning and have typically found birds- although I have witnessed them leaving the field prior to legal light on several occasions, so I figured that it would be a good idea to try to catch them in the field in the afternoon.

    1st evening: Started walking CRP from the south end of the parcel at approximately 45 min prior to sunset. Probably 30+ birds flushed wild (75-100 yds) in front of my dog and I as we approached the north side of the WIHA property. Encouraging walk, but no shot opportunities.

    2nd evening: In an attempt to try to understand when/how the birds got into the WIHA, I parked 1/8 mile away and snuck into the north side of the field from the road. We just stood in the corner of the field and didn't enter the grass until about 15 min prior to sunset. I observed 20-40 pheasants fly from the (north) adjoining cut crop field to the adjacent (private) CRP field. I walked for the last 15 minutes and didn't move a bird from the general area where we saw 30+ birds the night before.

    My assumption is that the birds that I encountered on the first night, changed plans on the 2nd evening and decided to roost in the adjacent CRP field instead of the WIHA parcel.

    So here are my questions:

    1. Assuming that you hunt for 2-3 days at a time, what is the general consensus of hunting a field twice over the period of a weekend? I'm just guessing, but it looks like my disruption of the birds roosting altered their behavior to select a different field the next evening. Again, I have no way of knowing how the birds have been pressured the day before or week before...so a small, but interesting, data set from the 1st to 2nd evening. I find that I hunt a field and then learn how the birds escape and try to fool them the next day by changing tactic, adding a blocker, etc., but the 2nd attempt NEVER seems to yield the same bird encounters as the first hunt.

    2. Any guesses at how long hunting pressure changes bird behavior? As in, would they have to get pressured off of the private land to return to roosting on the WIHA or after a few days will they just kind of hit reset in the head and return a former pattern? The season had been opened for about 2 weeks prior to my hunt....so I would assume it is unlikely that I was the first guy to walk the field.

    Thanks for any insight and I hope everyone has a good rest of the season.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2016
    Location
    Sioux Falls, SD
    Posts
    694

    Default

    It depends??

    I can really only speak from experience w/ wild, public land birds (essentially what you've described) that get pounded pretty heavily for a good portion of the season. Of course, I think the time of year, weather, & amount of pressure they're used to (not only in a specific field, but in the general area) influence their behavior & may lead to many different possible answers to the questions. I tend to get wordy, but I'll try to focus here.

    1. Yes, your disruption probably did change their behavior the 2nd evening. I've tried similar things enough times with poor results, that regardless of what happens Saturday, I almost always try to hunt different spots on Sunday, or for SURE at different times of day. Early in the season (VERY early), you might be able to get away with hunting the same spot twice in a row, but the 2nd day will probably offer considerably less opportunity. After 2 days, there will probably be a couple hens left at best. A week or 2 into the season, if you hunt a spot, chances are you WILL NOT see roosters there the next day at that time.

    2. In my opinion, pheasants have no reset button. If the habitat they're using gives them what they want, something has to happen to make them change behavior. That could be weather, hunting pressure, predators, etc. Otherwise, as long as they feel safe & warm, they'll tend to continue to use the same habitat or similar stuff nearby. Being hunted 1 time may make birds (particularly roosters) avoid using a spot for the rest of the season (at least at certain times of day). If I see birds in a spot, I'll probably try to wait at least 3 weeks before trying that spot again. And then I'll try to hunt it different than the first time (different time, direction, etc.). I know there are other hunters involved in the equation, but even if I give a spot 3 weeks off & all other things being equal (which is a stretch), the birds are rarely in the exact same places at the same times doing the same things. I believe that in South Dakota, pheasants (particularly roosters) move around more frequently & further than a lot of people think. This is especially true as long as weather is half-way decent & they have some cover options available to use as lay-over points as they search to find just the spot they're really after. They're moving targets in more ways than one.

    An important thing to remember is that later in the season, most roosters will behave different from hens, unless the weather/snow conditions dictate that they HAVE to use the same spots. Just because hens are in an area doesn't mean there are roosters. This is particularly true between morning feeding & late afternoon feeding. Early morning & roosting, they're more likely to intermingle.
    "Most pheasants in South Dakota don't react too well to #5s." -The Hunt for Red Rooster

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Weston, WI, near Wausau
    Posts
    592

    Default

    If you hunt a patch of cover a couple days in a row you have to expect diminishing returns. You chased X number from it on Day 1 and shot a few. Those you chased out went to other cover, possibly on other properties you can't hunt. Some will come back at sundown to roost, some will stay where they are. So you end up with X - those birds that didn't come back, those you shot, etc..

    We hunt private land in Iowa, normally the opening weekend. In the week following another group has permission to hunt those properties. Last year we delayed our trip due to other conflicts and we had our poorest hunt of all that I've taken there. A lot of corn was still up, which is a big factor, but also we knew the land had been hunted hard during the week prior to our arrival.
    Born to hunt. Forced to work.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    Location
    Front Range, CO
    Posts
    6

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    Thanks for the responses- I appreciate your insight and anecdotal knowledge. That makes sense and is in line with what I have experienced over the years...although I may not have known it. Actually watching a change in bird behavior on that last hunt was eye opening for me. I suppose I thought that there was a reason to find birds in specific fields due to feed, cover, etc. and so they wouldn’t easily abandon that field. Now it makes more sense that birds are probably more adaptable/pressure averse than I thought so even a lesser field without pressure could be more desirable than a prime field to avoid some lead flying!

  5. #5

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    I agree with A5 Sweet 16, but it also depends on other factors (aka luck). Mind over matter.

    In many areas other hunters are walking the same acres (albeit every group may have their own "style"). So pick spots that offer you the best bet to move birds.

    Sometimes you can walk a place the two days in a row or over a few day period and see more birds the second time. This year we walked a public hunting area day one and three. Day one we put up two roosters and several hens. Day three we say close to 10 roosters and shot 3 ... many more hens. The difference ... the second time we hunted, a group was walking private land across the street and pushing birds into or back into the public land spot. I spoke with the three hunters later and they said they had pushed quite a few birds into that cover.

    I have also wrote about walking the same spot 4 times, there and back twice and finally getting roosters on the 4th pass through. We could see tracks in the snow so we knew birds were moving around in there, but refusing to flush unless pinned by a point.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2016
    Location
    Sioux Falls, SD
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    Excellent points, Brittman. Perfect example of something "happening" to move birds into different cover. Other hunters nearby. Harvesting corn. Deer season. I've developed lots of rules of thumb over my years of studying pheasants. One of them is that pheasants break every rule. Another is that I have to be willing to make an exception to every rule.
    "Most pheasants in South Dakota don't react too well to #5s." -The Hunt for Red Rooster

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2016
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    Sioux Falls, SD
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    Another somewhat related thought. In general, many pheasant hunters don't hunt the right places at the right times in the right ways. So if you want to hunt a spot & pull up to see guys just leaving.....who cares? If you think what you had in mind was the "right" way/time to hunt the spot, stay & hunt it, especially if they didn't have dogs. There have been countless times when I catch guys just leaving. They saw little to nothing & I go in there & shoot a couple without too much trouble. After you've built up a knowledge base (& understanding there are no hard & fast rules w/ pheasants), you have to trust what you DO know about them. It's all you have, & it's the only way you'll learn more.
    "Most pheasants in South Dakota don't react too well to #5s." -The Hunt for Red Rooster

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    Location
    Front Range, CO
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    Thanks A5 and Brittman. Those are some great thoughts and suggestions. There are clearly lots of factors to influence success....the actual hunter is only part of the equation. Even though somewhat counter-intuitive, I have certainly hunted behind folks in a field and put some birds in the vest by doing something differently even though it just got trampled through. I find that I try to observe more these days and as mentioned, hunt the right cover at the right time of the day...and hopefully do it the "right" way, as opposed to walking every WIHA parcel that I came across a decade ago without really understanding why I would find birds in some fields and not others. Thanks for the insights and words of wisdom. I'll be putting this into practice in a few weeks. Looks like I need to scout some new fields to avoid double dipping over a weekend as well. Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Posts
    105

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    Quote Originally Posted by A5 Sweet 16 View Post
    Another somewhat related thought. In general, many pheasant hunters don't hunt the right places at the right times in the right ways. So if you want to hunt a spot & pull up to see guys just leaving.....who cares? If you think what you had in mind was the "right" way/time to hunt the spot, stay & hunt it, especially if they didn't have dogs.
    Also valid if they have pointing dogs and you are hunting with labs or spaniels, or vice versa. I have walked literally behind (because I hunt labs and they are slower) some setters and GSPs and put up birds that pointing dogs ran right over on many occasions. Certainly having pointing dogs that cover ground that did not get covered by hunters with flushing dogs can be just as productive.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
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    SW Missouri
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    1,009

    Default

    Embarassing story on my part- A few years ago we hunted an 80 acre patch of walk in hunting I knew of, had hunted it a dozen times, didn't even have to look at the map to know where it was, the same as we always did, parked on the southeast corner, walked north, made a circle to the west and back to the truck. Shot a few birds, had a few scoot out at th end.

    Get in the truck, start driving to look at some other spots on the map. Made a lot of turns here and there, drove a few miles, 'hey this spot looks promising'. Parked on the northwest corner of this 80 acre patch, start walking, and after 100 yards it dawns on me its the same patch we had just left, but I'd never looked at it from the second parking spot. Oh well, went on hunting, got a couple of points and killed a rooster out of it. From the field we'd been in just 20 minutes earlier.

    The way I look at Kansas public hunting land, after the first field of opening morning, all bets are off. Odds are its been hunted before you got there. Everybody is just trading fields. The hope is you bring enough of a different tactic, or a different set of dogs, or get lucky enough, that one of the birds is dumb enough to wait until you're in range.

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