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Hunter's Information Hunting Pheasants in Row crop Fields

Today’s clean, well-manicured row crop fields are less than ideal for pheasant hunting. The birds often begin running out one end of the field soon after hunters walk into the other.

In years past, hunting a row crop field was much like hunting a block of grassy cover. The crops were much shorter and there was considerably more weedy ground cover than is the case today. Pheasants held much longer, so one or two hunters could work the field and have a good chance of flushing birds at close range.

If you’re lucky, you may still find an occasional dirty field; if you do, it will probably hold more birds than other nearby fields.

The open rows in today’s clean fields make perfect running lanes for pheasants. The only practical way to hunt such a field is by driving it with a group of hunters and placing posters at the end.

Some hunters who own good bird dogs refuse to hunt clean fields because they’re not conducive to good dog work. Even a well-trained dog finds it hard to resist chasing a rooster down an open corn row. But in early season, when a high percentage of the crops are still standing, there may be no other choice, because that’s where the birds are.

Don’t ignore crop stubble, especially if it has scattered weed patches. The stubble makes a prime feeding area and is usually high enough to conceal a sneaking rooster.

Hunting row crop fields is most productive the first and last two hours of the day, although they may hold pheasants anytime. Avoid hunting these fields in windy weather. The rustling leaves are so noisy that you may not hear the birds flush. And you probably won’t be able to hear the footsteps of your hunting partners or your dog.

When hunting row crop fields, follow these simple guidelines:

  • Try to drive manageable strips, no more than two hundred yards wide. It’s very difficult to pin birds down in a huge field, no matter how many hunters in your party.
  • Small parties can work big crop fields by concentrating on edge rows, always pushing them toward the corners.
  • Don’t attempt to hunt a row crop or stubble field unless you have posters at the end, preferably at intervals of no more than 60 yards. Posters must remain silent and as inconspicuous as possible, so as not to alert the birds. Otherwise, they may flush prematurely.
  • Posters and drivers should wear a blaze-orange cap when hunting crop fields; this way, they can see one another more easily in the tall cover.
  • Drivers should walk into the wind; this way, the birds are less likely to hear them coming, and dogs can pick up scent more easily. A favorable wind also helps the dogs hear running pheasants.
  • Position drivers at 15- to 20-yard intervals, and make sure the middle drivers stay a little behind the outer drivers; this way, the birds usually funnel toward the middle. Drivers should zigzag a little to keep the birds from stopping or doubling back. lf there is thick cover adjacent to the field, include it in your drive.
  • Be alert when drivers approach posters; birds running down the rows will be trapped near the end and many may flush at once. Never shoot at birds flying low over the field; there could be another hunter in the line of fire.
  • Flushers generally work best in open crop fields; pointers may have difficulty pinning the birds down. In cut fields, however, birds often hold under fallen leaves and stalks, where pointers can pin them down more easily.