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If it Flies it Ties: Pheasant Hunting to Muskie Hunting

It is no secret the ring-necked pheasant has some of the most beautiful feathers found in nature. Every time I hold a pheasant in my hands I am awestruck by the vibrant and shimmering colors that come out as they catch different angles from the sun. In order to not waste these beautiful feathers that are often discarded after the birds are cleaned, I decided to put them to use. I have friends and coworkers here at Pheasants Forever that tie these feathers into flies for trout fishing. Personally, I prefer the pursuit of the muskie, and have discovered many ways to tie pheasant feathers into a spinner bait.

Photo by Mike Rausch / Pheasants Forever

Photo by Mike Rausch / Pheasants Forever

The easiest feathers to use in muskie lures are the tail feathers. They are the most durable, they have great lines that match the vertical patterns that many bait fish have, and they are long enough to cover the long shanks of the giant treble hooks. The only issue that arises with these feathers is they have strong quills and their rigidity does not flow very well behind a pair of #8 or #10 Colorado blades. I suggest only using the top 4-5 inches of the tail feather. In order to get the desired fluidity behind the blades, I tie marabou and some of the breast feathers into the skirt.

Making your own lures also saves your pocket book as well. Any hardware, such as beads, blades, and wire components of these baits can be found on line or at local outdoor sporting goods stores. Pheasant feathers are expensive when purchased at the store and buying multiple components at once is far cheaper than buying a completed lure.

Much of lure-making is experimental. Ideas such as colors, size, and presentation have to be tinkered with. That is part of the reason why making lures is so fascinating.  There are endless combinations of components that can be put together to make a great lure, and there is always some reason to make another.

Making lures out of pheasant feathers is a great way to pay tribute to its beauty. I use the time making lures to recollect the good memories of the previous hunting season and to dream in anxious anticipation of the upcoming fishing season. As I tie pheasant feathers onto a lure, I am also tying two of my passions together, bringing my two favorite hobbies full circle.

-Mike Rausch is Pheasants Forever’s Artwork and Firearms Coordinator

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