Pheasant hunting is a hunting type rooted in the tradition of many countries, able to give unsuspected emotions.
The first question being: who hasn’t practiced pheasant hunting at least once in their life?
It is true, there are hunting activities that present themselves with more appeal, types of hunting that occupy a privileged space in the stories told at a bonfire, either for the charm of the wild or even just for the tradition they bring.
If we were shooting a movie about the bird hunting, we would probably choose as the main protagonist the intriguing black grouse, as a spectacular setting the majestic peaks of the typical Alpine and as an object of desire the royal woodcock, hidden in a magical enchanted forest.
It is equally likely that the pheasant, if it were part of our cast, would enter this “imaginary hunting feature” with a secondary part, although it is one of the most practiced hunts.
The beauty of hunting and hunting culture in general, however, is that when the hunter is face-to-face with the wild, everything is balanced and each wild acquires the same charm, deserves the same consideration.
For this reason, changing for once the usual point of view, at the center of our “narrative” we will put him… the pheasant.
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Pheasant hunting: origin and habits
The common pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) is a galliformes bird, native to central-eastern Asia, but present in Europe since ancient times and has become part of the hunting culture of the Old Continent.
Today pheasant is found mainly in open areas of plains and hills and, more rarely, in mountain and pre-mountain areas.
Its presence in Italy has increased significantly since the 1960s thanks to repopulation and is now influenced by hunting management.
This is a mainly daytime wild, which does not come out before 8.00/8.30 in the morning.
It nourishes of fruits, seeds of grasses, corn, tomatoes, but also insects and invertebrates and loves the intricate soils, better if dirty, impervious and rich of brambles.
Sedentary and suspicious game, it is capable of escapes even along miles.
On sunny days we will find it along the ditches or along the banks of the rivers in search of refreshment, while on rainy days it will privilege the banks of the scrub and the open fields, to hear the steps of the predators.
Pheasant hunting is a demanding and exciting hunting activity, which tests the skills of the hunter and his auxiliary.
It can be practiced with two different techniques: the hunting with pointing dog or stalking dog and the pheasant drive hunting.
Pheasant hunting with pointing dog or stalking dog?
The hunting typology most practiced in pheasant hunting in Italy is with the help of your own dog.
Excluding the typical alpine, the pheasant remains today one of the last sedentary wild that can be hunt with the pointing or stalking dog, both types of auxiliaries very valid and suitable for this hunting activity.
Contrary to what one might think, the pheasant is a shrewd and very shy wild, which gives dogs and hunters a hard time.
For this reason, a pheasant dog will have to be balanced and passionate at the same time, with patient stalking and bold spirit, ready to find among the brambles of the bushes, where the pheasants love to take refuge.
The pheasant, especially with the passing of the hunting season, becomes more and more smartened and accustomed to evading the strategies of the hunters, forcing the dog to long guides.
When our auxiliary is pointing, the wild tends to flatten and walk away on foot. Only rarely does it fly and almost never within reach, sometimes stopping to rest above the plants, unreachable to the smell of dogs.
One piece of advice for pheasant hunting is that the hunter must be at the service of the auxiliary. He must know well the wild, his habits and become one with his dog, all in the utmost silence.
When the dog is pointing, the hunter will have to go around it with a wide turn and position himself in front, so as to cut off any escape routes.
Breeds of pointing dogs particularly suitable for pheasant hunting are the Italian Bracco and Spinone, while among the stalking dogs surely a particular mention deserves the Springer Spaniel and the Cocker.
Pheasant drive hunting: charm and skill
The second hunting technique for pheasant hunting is the English drive.
This mode of hunting is practiced on the galliformes wild – pheasants, red-legged partridges and more rarely Scottish grouse – and, as expressed by the name, was born in the noble British reserves.
The hunters position themselves at the post and wait for the beaters to fly the pheasants, usually in large numbers, literally testing the ability to shoot on wilds flying at speed.
Pheasant hunting drives have always fascinated a large number of hunters and are one of the privileged activities on hunting trips to England, practiced mainly as a reserve pheasant hunt.
Shotguns suitable for pheasant hunting
The main characteristics of a pheasant hunting shotgun are the agile swing, the excellent balance and the readiness in the thrust shots.
Both Affinity 3 semi-automatic shotguns and tilting shotguns, such as Feeling over-and-unders or Esprit side-by-side, can be used in the walk-up hunt, depending on individual preferences.
Both the 12-gauge and the 20-gauge are perfect for this hunt, with an average barrel length of around 66 cm /26 “and a choke ****/** for closer shots, while a 71 cm/28” barrel can also be used for meditated shots.
In pheasant drives, the firearms of choice traditionally used are the 12-gauge over-and-under shotguns or side-by-side shotguns, because the shots are always made at the limit of the range.
In recent years, however, the use of the semi-automatic shotgun has also become widespread, due to the possibility of the third shot.
In this type of hunting, given the distance of the shot, the barrels are consequently longer, from 71 cm/28″ to 76 cm/30″ with narrower chokes, */***.
Which cartridges to use for pheasant hunting
The cartridges change as the hunting technique changes.
Cartridges with an average load of 36 grams in the 12-gauge and 28 grams in the 20-gauge, usually with lead 7 in the first barrel and 6/5 in the second or “third barrel”, in the case of a semi-auto, will be good for the wandering pheasant hunt.
For the most distant shots typical of the English drive, the number of pellets will be smaller, so 36 grams for the 12-gauge in lead 6 for the first barrel and in lead 5/4 for the second.
What clothing to use for pheasant hunting
Clothing is an important factor to consider during an outing.
The pheasant hunting season in Italy usually begins between the end of September and the first days of October, with the possibility of having days characterized by the last summer heat, which will become increasingly rigid with the passing of the months and the arrival of winter.
For this reason, it is advisable to wear layered clothing with waterproof garments and good technical and breathable underwear, which warms and prevents sweat, very useful especially in walk-up hunting.
Gaiters and thighs will be enemies of brambles and dew and a good game bag can be an excellent ally of your back, which will allow you to make even long walks without great effort.
How to cook pheasant: taste ideas
Pheasant is also the star of many wild game recipes, from gourmet appetizers to traditional dishes, to recipes typical of modern street food.
Being a white and lean meat, it is an excellent variant of chicken and offers the opportunity to have fun revisiting in an original way also traditional recipes.
Among the most delicious dishes, we certainly find the pheasant broth, excellent to combine with delicious cappelletti with pheasant filling, but also shorter preparations such as a fresh salad with pheasant meat will make a good impression.
And to round off a day of hunting, there is nothing better than simply cooking pheasant skewers with lime and mint, using the finest parts of the meat such as the chest.
Pheasant meat is, therefore, a very versatile meat that always gives us an opportunity to organize tasty dinners in which to share your passion for hunting and good food.
So, we could say that pheasant hunting is far from simple, because pheasant is a wild animal that learns throughout the season to identify and evade the strategies of dogs and hunters.
It is a hunt to be valued and appreciated, which requires stalking in different environments, important pointing by its auxiliaries, intense approaches in which the hunter is attentive to the slightest noise and the adrenaline rises step by step waiting to do checkmate.
Now you just have to live your experience of pheasant hunting, which will surely give surprises and emotions, like a movie shot live. Lights, camera, action!