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  1. #1

    40 yard + shots on pheasants over dogs

    Since the subject of 40 yard shots and who can make them (most shooters can't, per both Vic Venters and Chris Batha in their articles on drivien shooting--and I agree) came up in the driven shooting discussion, thought I'd relate my experiences from hunting pheasants over dogs in Iowa this year, where bird numbers are WAY down. I could actually take it back the last 2 or 3 seasons, because what I've seen seems to be pretty consistent. I thought we might see longer shots on average. Hasn't been the case. Fewer birds for sure, but not longer shots.

    Did our last hunt this year on January 4. Temperature in the low 20's, and it felt a lot colder than that, thanks to a strong NW wind. My partner and I moved 6 roosters in less than 2 hours, which was more than I expected a week short of the end of the season. If two of them had been any further away, we likely would not have known they were roosters. The other 4 . . . all flushed within 25 yards. One did die as a result of maybe a 35 yard shot, but that's only because my partner rushed his first try and had to use his left barrel.

    I have no idea what the big drives in the Dakotas might produce. But probably featuring more "supplemented" birds than wild ones in a lot of places, I'd guess that at least some of those in the group--drivers or blockers--would get some pretty close looks. But a couple guys with dogs can still do OK, and IMO are better advised to set themselves up for the shots they're most likely to get--AND hit--rather than those flushes that stretch the limits of their capabilities.

  2. #2
    Pointers or flushers? Close working, methodical dogs or slashers? Kind of cover? That stuff makes a difference, IMO.

    While I have no reason to doubt your experiences -- it mirrors mine hunting over setters in SW Iowa -- a good friend and professional spaniel trainer spent a couple years guiding in Kansas on wild birds -- seven days a week, throughout the season. He told me that during those years, he considered a 30-yard shot a gift from heaven and that people who couldn't hit birds at 40 yards were pretty much out of the game.

    Why? Thin cover and dry conditions, mostly. It certainly wasn't the "grunch" that Bob Crandall likes and produces close-up shooting. Running flushers, you might expect too that the sports might not have had much experience reading the dogs and hence weren't quite as ready for the flushes as they might have been behind pointers.

    And it wasn't because he had bad dogs. It's just that like most things, there are exceptions to every rule and no matter how much experience any one individual has, there are going to be others with different experiences.

  3. #3
    Here we go again.

    My experience has been that pointed pheasants most often, but not always, flush close to the hunter. When they do, they are easy to hit. When they flush wider, they are no harder to hit but harder to kill, than the usual chances I get on huns. I use a 12 gauge and#5 shot when hunting pheasants. That hits them very hard out to forty yards for certain.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    harrison city pa.
    Hi guys, been very busy but on the subject here in Pennsylvania they stocked some very large hard running and flying birds and the Browning A5 light 20 I was murdering woodcock and grouse with earlier was no match for these birds outside 25 to 30 yards! I did get some great dog work and some mad looks from my dog on all the misses! I just don't shoot my other guns enough but this fall I will be ready, I'll bring 3 boxes of shells instead of 2! Take care guys and hope all is well!
    Last edited by sparky; March 17th, 2014 at 12:33 AM. Reason: bad choice of words sorry

  5. #5
    First Class
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    washington state
    I pattern my guns at marked yardages so I know what my gun and loads will do I have had no problems killing birds out to 50yds. but I usually don't.Can I do this every time on a good day on a bad day I can't hardly kill one at 25yds.I have found on birds that a crossing shot is way deadlier than the straight away shot from my guns #6 shot will kill any bird at 40yds. but you have to center them not fringe shoot them.Small birds fringe shooting will bring them down quite often on bigger birds that is where cripples come from.A buddy of mine hunting over his pointer with a 12ga. was telling me what a good shot he was I told him he was almost missing them he said he centered them with his mod choke asked if he ate the birds he said well ya but a centered bird at 25yds. with a mod. choked 12ga. would produce the shot pillow effect in the air and be shot up bad.The whole thing is most hunters don't know what there guns and loads will do most crossing shots are missed by being behind the bird you don't cripple birds by shooting them in the head and neck if you are in front of a crossing bird he will rear his head back.this is my opinion only not gospel just my observations of years in the field.

  6. #6
    Somewhere (maybe in SSM), I read the article about a springer guy who guides in KS. Yes, hard-driving spaniels will produce longer flushes, especially if the cover isn't real heavy. But it all becomes irrelevant if the guys pulling the trigger can't make 40 yard shots anyhow. No question shotguns and loads have been up to the task for a very long time--likely even predating the appearance of the Super-X and "modern" shotshells. The problem remains the Indian, not the arrow--as the late Mr. McIntosh might have put it.

    Dave, your experience aside, EVERYTHING is harder to hit at longer range. Were that not true, everyone would be shooting trap from the 27 yard line rather than the 16 yard line. Distance multiplies aiming errors. That's a very basic fact. One reason a longer range bird is harder to kill is because it's harder to center. (Also harder to penetrate to something vital, if it's mostly a going-away angle.) And once they're on the ground, well out there and with two good legs, you'd better have a good dog or you're feeding the coyotes. Shooting clay targets, a chip is a hit. "Chipped" pheasants are likely to elude pursuit, which makes them an 0 rather than an X.

    Hunt heavier cover with a smaller group, use decent dogs, make less noise. You're likely to get close looks (just not as many of them), even when bird numbers are down.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Brown View Post
    Somewhere (maybe in SSM), I read the article about a springer guy who guides in KS. Yes, hard-driving spaniels will produce longer flushes, especially if the cover isn't real heavy. But it all becomes irrelevant if the guys pulling the trigger can't make 40 yard shots anyhow.
    Same guy, and a very good friend. Point is, the answer isn't always "walk longer and harder and you will get enough close shots." Sometimes it is. But my pal and his sports walked very long, and very hard, and they still had tough shooting on most days. Limits were banner days, unlike the operations in the Dakotas where they are the expectation.

  8. #8
    Pheasants present shots, close to far, based upon many factors...dogs do not guarantee a distance, dogs can imply a distance, hunter determines the distance of the bird when the shot is triggered.
    From the cover itself to the experience of pheasant, dog and, hunter to weather and more....all go to determining flush distance.
    Choosing a shell or choke or gauge to cover a range of distances the hunter's skill enables is pretty much up to the hunter.....sometimes, it would be better if a wiser head prevailed or if there was time to take a show of hands.
    Mostly, there is not.

    Badly shot up birds to the point of lost meat are often about the shot presented(besides choke, distance, pellet and, of course, the always "centered" bird) and what part of the pheasant the hunter wishes to save along with what equates to "badly shot up". Having seen feathers in abundance and perfectly fine breast meat....just depends.
    There are those who recoil at pellet strikes in their pheasants and prefer as pristine a product as possible. I don't but....again, it all just depends.
    I suspect all of us have shot too slowly and far too quickly at times for optimum results...probably will happen again, even with the best of intentions.

    16 yard trap...everyone shoots at the 16 yard line.
    Handicap trap for adult men begins at the 20...I believe one can go as far up as the 18 yard line but, it has been awhile as to rules retention and, I never suffered that indignity.
    Mostly, shooters prefer other shooters to make quick moves into their yardage class.
    Do not forget pumpkin!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    South Dakota/ Montana
    I just won't hunt a dog that didn't put birds up with-in 30 yards, which means one trained to range left and right to the front at thirty yards. And it my world it is labs I rely on for pheasants. I use setters for my prairie grouse.

    I am not trying to be flippant here. A fat footed farm kid can get pheasants to flush at the end of the shelterbelt; I don't need a dog that does. If the dog does her job, my job is to shoot them inside of the seven league ranges touted on the other thread. I am sorry fellas, but there is really no reason in good pheasant country to stretch a shotgun's barrel over a good dog, regardless of your choice of gauge.

    The last hunt of the season for me was the last day of February. Six of us hunted and we shot 15 roosters, all wild birds and the longest shot was maybe 35 yards....maybe.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by sd/mt pga pro View Post
    I am sorry fellas, but there is really no reason in good pheasant country to stretch a shotgun's barrel over a good dog, regardless of your choice of gauge.
    Agree. But just how much "good" pheasant country is left? My friend was in Kansas, a great pheasant state not so very long ago. But it wasn't great any longer. There were enough birds to make a hunt worthwhile, but it wasn't wave after wave of mass flushes like I've seen in the Dakotas. The birds they saw most days were out there and if they wanted to bring some home, they shot at 40 yards.

    Now if you are trying to say that my friend must not have had good dogs ... we have a severe difference of opinion on our hands and I'll leave it at that.

    Bottom line: If I'm driving 1,000 miles to get into a fair population of pheasants for just a couple days of hunting -- which I have done and hope to do again -- I'm going to work on my shooting so that I'm confident that I can take and make a longer shot and hope that I don't have to do so.

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