Five years ago, my first successful hunt was Pheasant at the Big K Ranch in Oregon. Since then, I’d gone out a few more times, but never on public land. One of my hunting buddies researched Connecticut’s fish and game policies. As it turns out Connecticut buys approximately 15,000 birds and places them on state lands over a 6-week period in the autumn. The closest to us was Naugatuck State Forest. They put roughly 100 birds per week in the area hopefully offering ample opportunity to take upland game, even without a dog. The state rules allow a 2-bird bag limit and hens are fair game. Other legal birds include: grouse, quail, chukar, and Hungarian partridge.
The night before the hunt I packed my gear as I’d be waking up at 4am to ensure we got there before first light. Unlike many hunters who try to go to bed at 8pm, I would rather go to bed later to ensure that when I hit the pillow I’ll sleep almost immediately. My friend picked me up at 4:40 am on the dot and we rendezvoused with our third, strangely enough on I-95. After a quick bite at McDonalds, we arrived at the designated parking area at 6am. We had no idea what to expect, but the week before I drew up a tentative game plan in MS Paint:
Our first issue was apparent on arrival… other hunters had beaten us to the area, worse, they had a dog. We were afraid that with dibs on the field (visible on the map to the north of the parking spot) we would get skunked. Amazingly, when they saw that we didn’t have a dog, they volunteered to go hunt the forest leaving us the field. The day was looking up!
Within 10 minutes of arriving, we heard gunshots. The hunters on Friday and the foxes hadn’t gotten all the birds yet. At first legal light, the three of us went out to try to get ourselves some pheasants:
We hunted by combing the field, walking in a rough line, zig zagging, and pausing momentarily. Our strategy worked, as we spooked a hen and a rooster within the first 30 minutes. The hen came up over my buddy, he tracked it and took it cleanly with the first shot from his Beretta Silver Pigeon:
The rooster came flying towards me, roughly over my head. My first shot was a miss, but my second shot drilled the underside of the bird from ~20 feet with a load of #4. The bird was dead when it hit the ground.
The remainder of the hunt was a combination of hiking, missing birds, getting my hat ripped off multiple times by brambles, wishing I’d wore chaps, making friends with other hunters, and other such activities:
After returning home, I quickly breasted the bird. Saved the meat that I could (I don’t recommend Remington Pheasant Load at that range with a modified choke). Then made myself a nice lunch:
All in all, for a first time hunting pheasant on state land, it was a major success. My Beretta performed admirably, although I’d love to hunt with a 20ga over/under. Next time, we’ll try to arrive earlier so we ensure we have first dibs and bring a dog. With a dog, all four of us would likely have limited out very quickly.