Hunting Workshop Part 2: Pheasant Hunting in Oregon

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Recently I had the opportunity to take part in a pheasant hunting workshop hosted by Oregon’s Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). As advocates for R3 (recruitment, retention, reactivation) ourselves at Harvesting Nature, it was great to have a state agency advocating for and promoting the same concept.

In my previous article on Hunting Workshops, I wrote about the shotgun skills course hosted by ODFW which was a prerequisite for the pheasant workshop and any other non-fishing workshops hosted by ODFW. While that course introduced members to firearms and the basic skills, the pheasant workshop amplified on that and combined hunters with a guide and a hunting dog for real-world shooting and live birds.

During this workshop, 18 “students” were split up between five groups. It’s hard to say how many had hunted pheasants before – I certainly have not and I know the two others in my group hadn’t either. It did appear that most people were there to learn the ways of flushing pheasants and hunting with a dog. As the day began, ODFW representatives took us through the basic safety rules and game plan for the day’s hunt.

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Each group was to have their own field to hunt, each of which were stocked with nine pheasants. Each group also had their guide and a hunting dog – either a German Short-Hair Pointer, a Labrador Retriever, or a Springer Spaniel – to hopefully sniff out any unsuspecting birds. My group had a pointer and an excellent guide.

As I quickly learned, pheasant hunting with a group and a dog is very systematic. No rambling around the field willy-nilly. We lined up on one end of the field, about 30 yards apart, and combed the clover and switchgrass as the dog went ahead, diligently sniffing the ground looking for a scent. Our first hope was about 10 minutes into the hunt when the pointer stopped about 10 feet in front of me and seemingly looked straight through my feet. I stopped, looked around, then walked forward to hopefully stir up a pheasant. But nothing came up, perhaps it was the spot where a bird was placed. Nevertheless, we continued.

As the morning got hotter and we kept walking, we started to hear more and more shots ring out in adjacent fields. This was good news, we thought, that the birds are up and about. After hearing some shots and looking up, we saw a pheasant fly from the field next to us and land about 50 yards in front of us. Game on. We approached the thicket where the bird landed, guns at the ready and nerves on edge, we thought there was no way we were coming away empty handed. However, despite closing in around the thicket and the dog’s incessant investigation of the area, this upland ghost never reappeared.

That was the last time I saw a pheasant alive that day. Although I could have walked for another few hours looking for the tasty fliers, the workshop’s schedule had other plans. During the last combing walk of the field back to the cars, I saw a likely culprit for the lack of pheasants in our field: a lanky coyote running from thicket to thicket about 50 yards ahead. The trickster struck again. We drove back to the staging area, heads figuratively hanging low, where some people were already cleaning their birds. I did my best to remember a couple things:

  1. It’s called hunting, not killing. I’m well aware of what tag soup tastes like, and it’s no fault of mine, the guide, or his dog
  2. It was my first pheasant hunt, the future has endless possibilities
  3. I still got to spend a morning in a field with the sun shining down

At the cleaning station, ODFW volunteers and representatives were instructing successful hunters on the proper and alternative methods to break down a pheasant. I thought this part was particularly important to new hunters: what do I do after the shot? While I’ve broken down many a duck, goose, dove, and small game animal, I still learned some new techniques that I’m eager to try out. I ended up cleaning a bird belonging to a man who shot two to practice the new techniques on, and in a true example of “venison diplomacy” (I guess you could call it “pheasant diplomacy” here) he offered it to me to take home. Even though it wasn’t my kill, I was overjoyed to have something to show for the day.

While the day was unsuccessful for me personally, the event itself was fantastic. The ODFW staff and volunteers were professional, courteous, knowledgeable, and excited to be there. They even conducted a versatile hunting dog presentation on what it takes to own, train, maintain, and hunt with a hunting dog and then then did demonstration on their abilities. I knew going into the day I would already sign up for future workshops, but after that morning I don’t think there is one I wouldn’t do simply because of the level of instruction and passion displayed by the hosts. And as far as R3 goes, I made some friends and exchanged contact info with some folks who shot their first birds ever that day and were looking to do some more. And that is almost as good as any roasted pheasant.

Collin Gruin

Collin is a novice hunter and angler who is quickly becoming more seasoned each year. He began his outdoor adventures in PA as a kid, and has had the opportunity to hunt and fish in various places across the U.S as an adult. His newest journey will take him to the Pacific NW where he will continue to grow his passion for the outdoors whilst learning to hunt and fish in new country.

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