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Doug Leier, Published November 20 2012

Leier: Some prefer later-season pheasant hunting

Fargo - For those of us who like to spend as much time as possible on the outside of the window, October is a sort of early Christmas present. Hunting seasons for just about everything are open, and fall fishing can be just as hot as summer, but without humidity and mosquitoes.

While crunching across the prairie, working up a mild sweat in the heart of those great Indian summer days conjures a post-card kind of memory, turning the calendar from November to December doesn’t have to signal the end of great pheasant hunting.

Fact is, the opening weeks of pheasant season draw the heaviest hunting interest. As the weeks wear on, some rooster hunters call it a season. Others may view the close of deer season as the end of hunting and the beginning of ice fishing.

Which brings me to later-year rooster hunting. Some hunters who prefer less crowded fields, may in fact not hunt roosters at all until the close of deer season. Others view the close of deer season as a reason to get back out after pheasants, and still others keep going from beginning to end.

Working the odds on December pheasants

If you’ve never hunted roosters toward the end of the season, understand that these birds have been hunted for several weeks, and they’ll probably be a little jumpy compared to opening weekend. If CRP fields fill with snow, birds may take cover in slough bottoms or shelterbelts near a food source.

When choosing a shotgun, some veteran hunters who prefer a 20 gauge earlier in the season commonly switch to a 12 gauge and use shells with larger pellets because of the perception that late-season shot ranges are longer than those typically encountered in October.

Whether shot ranges change all that much from early to late is a good topic for coffee shop conversation. What is true, however, is that larger shot sizes are better for taking pheasants cleanly, and it doesn’t matter if it’s early or late.

Across the state, many national wildlife refuges are now open and available for limited upland game hunting, including pheasants, grouse and partridge. They opened Nov. 26, which is usually after most migratory waterfowl have left the state.

Over the past decade U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel have worked diligently to increase hunting opportunities after waterfowl migrations and seasons have passed. Each refuge has specific regulations, including open and closed areas. Don’t let the specific regulations deter you. Refuge staffs are more than happy to explain regulations and might even offer a tip or two along the way.

To learn more about late-season NWR hunting opportunities, contact your local Fish and Wildlife Service office or logon to the Game and Fish Department website at gf.nd.gov.

And similar to a warm October hunt, you’d be well served to bring a cooler along, but this time of year you’ll want to keep the birds from freezing. If you’ll be field dressing the birds, be sure to leave proper identification as required by law.

Pheasant, grouse and partridge seasons are open through Jan. 6, 2012, so there’s still plenty of time to get out there and enjoy what the late season offers.

Leier, a biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in West Fargo, can be reached at dleier@nd.gov

Leier’s blog can be found online

at www.areavoices.com