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Pheasant hunting season opens Saturday

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Pheasants may seem elusive and mysterious to some hunters, but they are creatures of habit and follow a regular routine. Understanding how their daily patterns work will dramatically increase odds of flushing roosters this fall.

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Just after sunrise, pheasants leave their roosting cover. This is the short to medium grass where they have spent the night. As they move from roosting cover, hunters will see pheasants on roadsides, picking gravel or grit, before they move into crop fields to start feeding. When season opens at 9 a.m., the birds have just about finished breakfast and might be seen working their way through the grassy fringes of fields looking for a safe place to spend the day.

By mid-to-late morning, pheasants have settled into thick, dense cover such as standing corn, brush patches, native grass or wetlands. This is known as loafing cover. Strong winds, precipitation, cold weather or heavy hunting pressure will drive the birds into thicker loafing cover.

Pheasants are hungry again by late afternoon and will move from loafing areas back into crop fields. They will feed until just before sunset, when they head back to roosting cover for the night.

Hunting tips:

Be ready to hunt at 9 a.m. and take advantage of pheasants on the move. Hunt line fences, the edges of picked cornfields, field access roads and other edge cover.

The last hour of the day is known to hunters as the "golden hour." This is when pheasants are moving from crop fields into roosting cover and can make for great hunting. Don't miss it.

Be quiet! Talk softly and don't slam doors. Pheasants rely heavily on hearing to detect danger and may split before you see them. They get jumpier as the season progresses.

Hunt slowly and work in a zigzag pattern. Many hunters speed right past wiley roosters. Stopping occasionally will make even the smartest rooster nervous and force a flush.

Hunt the backsides of properties, away from roadways. Hunt habitat across creeks and drainage ditches. Many hunters won't make the effort to reach these challenging areas that will often produce pheasants.

Remember that pheasants are edge birds. Look for places where one type of habitat transitions into another: crops, grass, brush, cattails, ditches and fence lines.

Only hunt row crops if you have posters or standers at the end. Without them, pheasants will run down the rows and flush early. Always know where other hunters are located.

Don't hunt standing corn on windy days. The rustling leaves will keep you from hearing the birds flush and it will be more difficult to keep track of dogs or other hunters.

Look for grassy patches in picked corn fields. These can be real "honey holes" for pheasants.

Hunt the weeks after Thanksgiving. You will have very little competition from other hunters and birds will be more congregated than early in the season. Look for some great hunting.

If you shoot a pheasant, immediately mark where it landed and move to that spot. Grass and brush can make downed birds difficult to find.

Most of all, be aware of dogs and other hunters, be safe and follow hunting regulations.

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