We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
The pheasant was an early game bird introduction to America. A very handsome Asian native, it had already been a popular game bird in Europe when first brought to the US during colonial times by sportsmen (to Virginia, in fact, where it did not prosper). The hen pheasant comes in a plain brown wrapper with a shorter tail, but the roosters can appear in atypical colors due to hybridizing efforts. The pheasant is a rare example of an introduced bird which has no deleterious effects on existing ecosystems.
Pheasant prefers northern, open agricultural lands with areas of dense cover, and does not survive in the southern US. Pheasant is widely pen-bred and reared for hunting purposes, but few released birds in the US survive assaults from red-tailed hawks and coyotes, as they have not had the opportunity to become street-wise. The bulk of the wild, breeding populations are in the Dakotas, but they are found throughout the northern midwest and can even be found occasionally in the northeast. As agriculture has become more efficient, their numbers have slowly declined.
In Europe, pen-raised birds are typically allowed to enter an area where they have the chance to become semi-wild, capable of strong flight, and independent, but are held by food until the day they are driven by beaters into high flight designed to be challenging for shooters. In the western US, pheasant are hunted with dogs, or driven to the ends of large fields where they are forced into flight. In the eastern US, typically, fat pheasants are hunted on the day of release, hence our pal L's expression "flying mattresses." Such birds are not particularly sporty but most of us have found ways to miss plenty of them, especially when given time to think. It is considered proper decorum to let them get well underway in flight before pulling the trigger since, unlike grouse, you usually have a fairly open shot and you don't want your pellets to turn them into ground hamburger meat. In the midwest and west, pen-raised birds are used to supplement wild populations for sportsmen.
Fun to hunt? Definitely. Good for dog work? Yes. Good to eat? You bet. Cook to pink in the center. Read more about Ring Necked Pheasant at CLO. An organization called Pheasants Forever works on land management for pheasant.
(Details of English pheasant rearing practices corrected thanks to our across-the-pond cousin Mr. FMFT)
1. On our European pen reared pheasants – as you well know from my site we built a new game pen this year. In accordance with BASC advice, we put 246 birds into a pen with a perimeter of 280 yards. It has no roof so that once birds can fly they leave the pen. The way that feeders are set out the idea is to feed mature birds away from the pen & during a days shooting, drive them back towards ‘home’.
2. Like all game birds, given the choice, they will not fly – hence the need to carefully deploy beaters & stops.
3. Some of my chums who do a lot of very expensive shooting rate the high curling pheasant coming down wind as the most difficult shot there is. Indeed on one of our local shoots they regularly produce 130 – 150’ birds & that is just about the technical max range of an average 12-bore game gun firing 1oz & a 32nd or 1oz & a 16th of No.5 or No.6 shot.
I think that’s about it … other than pheasants make great eating!
No objection to people improving their aim, but it still seems a bit like shooting fish in a barrel to hunt critters that were just recently fed by humans. Don't get me wrong, I admire y'all for getting them at all, but I would admire you more for hitting truly wild and wary ones.
The whole point of fox-hunting after all is to admire the wily ways of the smelly but brilliant fox. I always love seeing all those darling slathering hounds sniffing, baffled, while Mr. Fox slinks away to safety. He has a real chance, which is why it is a real sport.
1. To Randolph: Not that easy.
2. To Mr. Free market: Yes, I know about beaters and stops. Didnt know about the feeders. An 150' downwind bird is beyond my pay grade. As you know, we use flushing dogs or pointers - no beaters as a general rule, unless we are imitating an English shoot. Our pens are covered - birds wont last 48 hrs out there with the predators we have.
I know it's not that easy. I'm sure it takes enormous skill, and I admire you for it. It's just that I love animals at least as much as people and I think of hunting as something that improves people because it is so difficult. Wilier, faster prey has a good effect on the character of the hunter. In my garden I ponder dashing hunters of my acquaintance, all of whom are such mightily fine fellows that they would become quite conceited if they didn't miss a lot.