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The Rooster Trail

Employable tactics for hunting cornfields, food plots, narrow strips of cover, large CRP fields, shelterbelts and wetland areas.

Corn Field Drives

Many pheasant hunters like to hunt with a buddy or two, so here’s a scenario in a cornfield. You may want to post one guy, but if you don’t, try both of you walking the outside rows first, moving toward the center to keep the birds in play.

Food Plot Drives

In this scenario, one hunter blocks while the other zig-zags the field to prevent birds from slipping by or simply staying put, undetected. Actually, zig-zagging is good form no matter what habitat you’re hunting. Stopping off and on is also great strategy to un-nerve notoriously spooky roosters.

Narrow-Strip Drives

Here, one hunter swings wide (so as not to spook any birds) before the drive begins to get into place for early breaking birds. He is also hunting wide enough to prevent spooking, but stays close enough for a decent shot as both hunters move out together.

Large CRP Drives

If you only have two hunters, run a maze course in big fields to push birds to the center instead of the edges. Keep your dog on this discipline as well.

Shelterbelt Drives

When the snow flies, birds can be found in shelterbelts when not feeding. Our poster swings way wide on his way to prevent premature flushes.

Wetland Drives

Lastly, our intrepid hunters drive an irregular wetlands, which is also common winter cover. Here, though, they drive and post, drive and post to break up escape routes and increase the odds of bagging a King of the Gamebirds!

Illustrations by Ryan Kirby. This story originally appeared in the Pheasants Forever Journal of Upland Conservation.

The Nomad is written by Mark Herwig, Editor of the Pheasants Forever Journal and Quail Forever Journal. Email Mark at mherwig@pheasantsforever.org.

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10 Responses to “The Rooster Trail”

  1. Raymond Kuntz says:

    I find it interesting that the illustration for the corn field hut shows a harvested field. If this is the correct intent I’ve been schooled, as 99.99 of harvested corn fields I’ve seen for the last 30 years are too open to “hold” birds, they can see you for 1/4 mile and with no cover to hide in feeding birds move out waaay ahead of you

  2. MIKE bOWERS says:

    Ray, I think you’d be surprised at how many pheasants hold in cut corn.

  3. Paul Richins says:

    How well would these tactics work on sage brush pactches on BLM ground in Idaho

  4. David Meyer says:

    On the last illustration of a wetland with that particular L-shape, I would hunt it the same as we have often hunted the common L-shaped farm grove which usually is on the north and west sides of the buildings. We would have a hunter or hunters on the north side (away from the buildings) and a dog (or a hunter if there’s no dog) in the trees on the north rows of trees and work from east to west. A second team with the same arrangement would start on south end of the west rows of trees and work north toward the point of the grove on it’s northwest corner. Before starting the drive we’d put a third hunter without a dog as a blocker at the point on the northwest corner. The birds almost always fly away from the farm site into the fields. It’s good to have at least two dogs (one for the north and one for the west side) since hunters in the trees rarely get a shot.

  5. Don says:

    All this assumes it’s the first day of the season. The smart birds will run around in the corn forever, no matter which pattern you use. It’s best to select small and/or narrow cover. I’ve found them hiding in 2 square feet of grass in the middle of a plowed field (usually later in the season).

    It is essential that a poster to hide. If a bird sees the poster, it’ll just run back around the walker. For narrow cover, my experience is that pinching the birds by both hunters working from each end works the best. The birds tend to get confused by hunters coming from them at both ends and tend to hold until the last moment.

    Lead them an extra foot to do a head shot. Easier to clean and easier on the teeth.

    Happy hunting.

  6. Steve says:

    Hunting last weekend in South Dakota we had two hunters and no dog. We walked shelter belts and CRP. Early in the day it was cold but very still out and bird spooked easily. We couldn’t get close to them. Later in the day, there was light rain, still cold but a breeze. The birds sat tight and you could get close. So much depends on the weather. Intresting to see the pattern you have for walking an open field. I’ve been hunting for over 30 years and I’ve never seen that. But walking slow and stopping often. Its amazing how many times they get up behind you. This time of year the dumb birds are already dead. The smart birds are more challenging, sit tight or run and normally flush to more cover.

  7. Mark Herwig, PF Editor says:

    Thanks for your comments everybody. I’ve gotten some grief about the stubble field scenario. True, stubble isn’t my first choice to hunt phez, but I’ve shot them there…bobwhite quail too. Many times I’ve pushed standing habitat only to see the dog running hard in adjacent stubble after a bird we’ve pushed into it. The birds do hide in the stubble and sit tight. I’ve shot roosters and bobs on such occassions. Good luck out there everybody. I head to Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa next month for articles on our chapters …and for some rooster chasing. Can’t wait!

  8. Andy says:

    Keep it simple- hunt the edge. Edges of CRP, edges of corn stalks, wheat or milo stubble, little patches of weeds along field edges. The only time I hunt the interior of a large field is early in the morning when birds are still on roost, late in the day if birds go back to roost early, or in mid day if there is a nice tall wheat stubble field to hunt. But then again I only hunt on highly pressured public land, and often it’s just the dog and I. ACE- Always Cover the Edge.

  9. tyler says:

    any good places to hunt public land in south dakota with fair to good amount of pheasants

  10. LazyM says:

    Thanks Boys! Great tips, and any tip is a good tip. I’m in Washington State’s Northern Colombia Basin. Just outside the scablands and love chasin’ those Pheasants. I really like the “Ace Tip” Andy gave, and appreciate the “Stubble Tip” too! Hello to my neighbor in Idaho. Shoot Straight!


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