Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

My son’s first pheasant

FRIDAY NIGHT, we watched the dark clouds gather while the rain fell—not a good combination for the special youth pheasant opener. We slept in. At 9 a.m. the next day, Dallin took a look at the clearing weather and we decided to go stomp some ditch banks.

We arrived at a popular division property near Utah Lake to an exodus of dogs, dads and young pheasant hunters leaving the fields. Each hunter was beaming and packed at least one beautiful ringneck pheasant. Dallin remained positive stating that there must be some birds left. I wasn’t convinced.

I reflected back on my pheasant-hunting days as a youth. It was always more fun to find and usually proceed to miss several pheasants. The harvest wasn’t necessary for success. Several funny memories of “just plain luck” bringing us pheasant encounters lifted my spirits and renewed some hope. We grabbed a few shells and off we went.

Dallin, the author's son, shot his first pheasant during this year's special youth hunt day.

We covered some ground and soon found a heavily covered ditch bank that looked promising. We didn’t have a dog, so we knew it could be a long day of walking. Having no gun myself was actually very refreshing; it turned me from hunter to teacher. I made a point of teaching my son all the bad behavior traits of pheasants: how they run when they should fly, and fly when they should run, and how even with all those gaudy colors, they can hide behind a single blade of grass.

We discovered some fresh roosts. We saw that there were no dog tracks or boot tracks around. Our hopes lifted and we kept working.

We got to the end of the ditch and I reiterated pheasant lesson 101: always walk completely out of the habitat you started in. We stomped around the end of the thick stuff. We found nothing. We turned and paralleled an old fence, then along a canal, then the end of the canal. Still nothing.

It was warming up fast, and our hopes began to fade. We considered heading back to the truck. Just then, a lone hen pheasant buzzed past us from the other side of the canal. We held our breath, hoping for more, but that was it.

We decided to try an experiment. As consolation we wanted to see if we could locate and flush that hen. We walked over to where she landed and proceeded to zigzag and circle the area. On the far side of where she landed, there were some thorny Russian Olive trees. We circled the trees and discovered another ditch with little signs of previous hunting pressure.

We each took a side of the ditch; I took the thicker, wetter side. About 20 feet in, Dallin asked about a plant he spotted. I took a minute and explained that they were dried milkweed. I pointed out a few other species of wild berries and cockleburs. I reminded Dallin that occasionally stopping and standing still in the heavy cover can make pheasants nervous enough to flush.

At the very moment I spoke those words, the sky exploded with that familiar, vibrant blur of a rooster pheasant! Startled enough by that one, a second rooster busted from the cover and headed for the trees.

After what seemed like minutes, Dallin remembered to take the safety off and fired two shots at the first pheasant, both clean misses!

In my haste to teach him everything about pheasants, I missed a couple of basics, like:

  1. Breathe
  2. Take off the safety
  3. Aim

We had a good chuckle at the experience. It’s amazing how the quick and unexpected sight of a pheasant can get the adrenaline pumping.

We watched the second pheasant land and figured that if we stuck to lesson one, we may be able to jump him again for another opportunity. We relocated the wily old bird, and after two more misses, Dallin connected with his first pheasant.