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Early Risers Find the Birds

The author's German shorthaired pointers with a preseason, dewy morning prairie grouse find: "Izzy" pointing and "Trammell" honoring. Photo by Bob St.Pierre / Pheasants Forever

The author’s German shorthaired pointers with a preseason, dewy morning covey find: “Izzy” pointing and “Trammell” honoring. Photo by Bob St.Pierre / Pheasants Forever

If the world were split between early risers and night owls, I’d be in the group hooting at the moon.  However, mom once predicted my alarm clock settings would change about the same time I developed a taste for Brussels sprouts.  This spring, I planted 28 Brussels sprouts in my garden, taking up almost 50 percent of the available space.  Yeah, you guessed it; my alarm clock setting has been slowly dialing back as straggling gray whiskers show up in my beard.

The obvious benefit to my new embrace of sunrises is better bird hunting.  I know this is a strange revelation coming from a guy who frequently touts the “Golden Hour” as the best time of the day to pheasant hunt.  However let me offer two big reasons in support of my sunrise theory:

1)      Catch Roosters Leaving the Roost.  While states have opening starts to the hunting day as varied as one half hour before sunrise all the way till noon on opening weekend in South Dakota, seasoned hunters will tell you to be in the field as early as legal shooting time allows.  In states like North Dakota and Kansas, it’s legal to begin your day’s pheasant hunt a half hour before sunrise.  This caffeinated starting time allows the early rising hunter to catch birds still in grassy roosting areas before disappearing into the standing fields of corn, sunflowers, or other crops.  This advantage wanes as crops are harvested and the season marches toward winter, but the days get shorter too.

2)      Dewy Scenting Conditions.  Moist conditions hold scent much better than dry conditions.  Just ask a Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, or Nebraska hunter how tough it was to find birds last fall when they hadn’t received rain in months.  A big part of the equation is the dog’s ability to locate scent.  A dewy morning presents excellent conditions for your bird dog to tip the scales in your advantage.  As the dew evaporates, so does that birdy scent and your hopes of a daily bag limit.

So what do you think, do you prefer the first hour of the day to catch those early rising “alarm clock” roosters, or are you a fan of the last glimmer of the day’s “golden hour?”

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.

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13 Responses to “Early Risers Find the Birds”

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  1. Matt says:

    In Nebraska we can hunt 1/2 hour before sunrise, and the first month of the season, my hunting partners and I take advantage of that. We are pretty amped up after waiting all year to hunt pheasants again, and we do normally kick a few birds out of their beds, so I feel that it’s worth it.

    As the season progresses, I find that I am not as concerned about getting out at O-dark-thirty, and we normally get out mid-morning and hunt through the golden hour. We also do more day trips, as opposed to whole weekend hunts, and I find that the later in the season I get, the more I just “like to get out” and get my GSP some work, and if we get a bird or two, it’s a bonus.

  2. Thanks for checking out the post and commenting Matt!

  3. Matthew - Texan says:

    I’ve always been an early riser for deer hunting but the comraderie of bird hunting with my buddies keeps us up late and I am NOT an early riser. So we put a whole lotta faith in that special golden hour and most of the time it really pays off. I’m sure we could hunt that early morning, take a mid afternoon break and then still get the golden hour. I’m headed to SoDak the 2nd weekend of November for a week long trip with a buddy. I’ve only ever hunted Kansas so I’m looking forward to getting to hunt upland heaven and hopefully I’ll get to see some sharptails and prairie grouse. Can’t wait!

  4. Bob St.Pierre says:

    Matthew – Texan,
    I know the feeling of “camaraderie” and completely understand.
    Best of luck in SoDak!

  5. craig says:

    Growing up in Iowa with an 8:00 AM start time, I always wanted to be in the field at 8:00. I remember trips to my favorite fields watching the birds leave other fields on my way to my field of choice. As I aged, I found that hunting the mornings and evenings was the best approach and justified it by saying that way the um dogs could rest during the miday.

  6. Matthew - Texan says:

    Any advice for mid-November trip to Pierre, SD for a first timer. I’m looking for a good mix bag.

  7. Matt, check out the Fort Pierre Grasslands. Sharpies, chickens and a few pheasants near crop fields and bottoms areas

  8. Sean says:

    Count me as one who will be near the field just waiting on legal shooting light. The early morning frost and crunch of the grass underfoot is too good to pass up. The fact that I don’t have to sprint to chase running roosters down rows of milo is just a bonus.

  9. Duane says:

    There’s nothing like the sun coming up and frost on the ground! Any tips for the Winner,SD area for another first time Iowa hunter headed west? Wish Iowa bird counts would return.

  10. Bob St.Pierre says:

    Thanks for reading the blog Duane. Unfortunately, I’ve never personally been to the Winner area.

  11. Catching the right moment to hunt pheasants is for me a crucial one in the whole hunt. I used to have problems with this when I was way younger.

  12. Duane says:

    Bob, Is the public area around Missouri river(Chamberlin area)good? If you have been there? I’ve hunted Webster area and wasn’t that great. thanks.

  13. Bob St.Pierre says:

    Duane,
    Sorry, I haven’t hunted around Chamberlin. Most of my South Dakota hunting has been east of the Missouri River and mostly north – from Aberdeen to the MN border.

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