Maine Pheasant Hunting: Don’t Gamble with Fallen Birds. You ever drop a twenty dollar bill and not try to look for it? Would you ever knowingly put yourself in a situation where you’re likely to lose a couple twenties and not make at least a small attempt at holding on to them?
No, I’m not talking about a trip to the casino.
I’m talking about passing up the opportunity to dine on the type of fare that’s only served at the finest dining establishments. What is that fare, you ask?
Some of the finest eating game on the continent. And, by the way, pheasant hunting is available year-round in Northern Maine at Camp Katahdin. Here’s what I’m getting at: A pheasant dish at a fine dining establishment will run you a good $50-plus. So every bird you knock down but can’t find is like losing a couple twenty dollar bills.
I am not a fan of ending my day broke and hungry.
Now I know that losing the occasional bird comes with the territory and I accept that (though I’m never happy about it). But I figure if there are some ways to tip the odds in my favor and possibly lower the risk of giving the local coyotes a free meal, then I’m all in.
In this post, I cover some tips on how to make sure to recover the birds you drop.
Practice Keeping Focus with Clays
Sure, hitting the trap range is a great way to work on your fundamentals. But busting clays in a t-shirt is not the same as shooting birds in the field. In other words, shooting practice is not hunting practice.
Try this: Dress in full gear, walk a bazillion miles in Maine wilderness until you’re completely out of breath and your legs burn, get mad at the dog, soak your back with a leaky water bottle and your feet with leaky boots, then trigger the target thrower right at the very moment you’re completely off balance and have your gun in the wrong hand.
Now that would be hunting practice.
Now take this practice one step further and train yourself to keep your eyes on the target even after the shot. Follow a piece of broken clay all the way to the ground. Practice taking note of that exact spot in your mind’s eye, looking away, then finding that same spot again. It sounds tedious, but it’s all about developing a habit of following through. Too many times we pull the trigger and lose focus.
And that’s how you lose birds.
Make the Shot Count
Dead birds are easier to recover. So the better shot you are, the better chance you’ll have at recovering your birds. But in the interest of not completely regurgitating information, I’ll assume you read my, Maine Hunting: Why We Miss, post and move on.
Just in case you missed the above article, here is the overview: Don't rush the shot, take the thinking out of it and focus on the fundamentals, take time to improve your gun fit, and Pattern your gun using the actual ammo and chokes you use in the field. More info in the link above.
Pheasant Hunting: Mark the Crash Site
Once you make the shot, you need to follow the bird to the ground. Then, without moving your eyes from the exact spot the bird fell, take note of something nearby that marks that location.
But here’s where it gets tricky. That one tall stem of grass that seemed so obvious when you were locked on the spot suddenly looks like all the millions of other stems of grass after you’ve looked away for even a moment. Suddenly, you don’t have the slightest idea where your landmark was and you’re reduced to wasting time walking in circles looking for a bird that should be easy to find.
Don’t be that guy.
Once you’ve dropped a bird, lock your eyes on the crash site and head directly to it, assuming it’s safe to do so (don’t be the guy that runs downrange in front of his hunting buddies either).
Pheasant Hunting Dogs
The caveat to this suggestion is if you have a dog. In that case, stop plenty short of where you think the bird fell and dispatch the retriever. Don’t just rush in there and start stomping around the brush polluting the scene with your wet-footed man-stench. Let the dog do his thing and intervene only if it becomes clear that he needs assistance.
Make sure the rest of your group stops to let you and Rover find your bird. There’s nothing more distracting than your group moving on while you’re trying to stay in line, keep tabs on the dog, and not lose track of where the bird fell. It’s a sure-fire way to lose birds. So before you even take to the field in Maine for the day, have everyone agree not to be those guys.
How to prevent lost birds with two people
While we’re making pacts, another way to prevent lost birds is for two people to mark the location of the same bird. This basically allows you to triangulate two separate viewing angles to better pinpoint where a bird went down. Hence the term, “X marks the spot.”
If everyone agrees that recovering shot birds is more important than flushing new ones, regardless of who pulled the trigger, then this multiple-angle marking will become the norm in your group and your lost bird rate will decline.
It’s like the saying goes, “A bird in hand is better than two in the bush.” But a bird on the dinner plate is even better.
Maine Pheasant Hunting
Camp Katahdin is a luxury hunting retreat in Northern Maine. Our 15 person Hunting Lodge is set in the most beautiful hunting grounds in the Katahdin area. Step out the door and walk, ATV, or snowmobile to prime hunting locations. Then, come back and rest easy in our new luxury lodge.
We are commercially zoned for pheasant hunting - that means, no license needed, 7 days a week hunts.
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