Courtesy of Tell Judkins, ODWC upland game biologist
The ring-necked pheasant is a beautifully colored game bird hunted here in Oklahoma. If you’ve ever thought these birds have an exotic look, well you are right. These exotic birds are native to China and East Asia, but were introduced to North America in the 1800s. Although Oklahoma is at the southernmost fringe of their range, they occur in healthy numbers in the North Central and North West part of the state.
If you’re like many Oklahoma hunters, including myself, deer and turkey are your pursuits of choice. At least for me, this is in part because I had little to no access to pheasant country growing up. There was only one WMA within 100 miles of me that might have had pheasants present. But four years ago, the Oklahoma Land Access Program was created. One of OLAP’s goals was to increase pheasant hunting access, and boy, did the program deliver! OLAP opened up thousands of new acres, located in some of the best counties for pheasant hunting; Cimmaron,Texas, Kay, Woods, Harper to name a few. And it appears hunters have taken notice. As the graph above shows, pheasant hunting looks to be on the slow incline.
There’s many reasons why pheasant hunting is alluring, the social factor being one of them. After sitting still in my deer stand for three months, I’m liking the sound of getting out and walking a field with a few buddies, putting my focus on something new. I like the group activity aspect that pheasant hunting has to offer. And as an avid foodie, there’s definitely the appeal of adding a new species of game bird to my repertoire. And also, you can dress like an old English gentleman — or woman — and it’s totally acceptable. Plus, license requirements for pheasant hunting are simple. You just need a valid hunting license, unless you’re exempt.
Beacause of the social nature of pheasant hunting, it might be the perfect opportunity to go hunting with someone in your household who hasn't been outdoors in a while. For many of us who grew up around it, taking up hunting was second nature; almost expected of us by those who taught and introduced us. But typically there's something — usually someone — who is pivotal to introducing you to hunting. You don't have to be Fred Bear to introduce/reintroduce someone to hunting. Sometimes just being passionate about the sport can help fire up or rekindle someone else's interest. I challenge you to take someone hunting with you in 2021. You could end up being that someone as well. Just be sure to follow guidelines from the Oklahoma Department of Health to minimize the spread of COVID-19. To help you stay healthy, we urge you to follow the same social distancing practices in the woods and on the water as you would in other settings.
Pheasants prefer cultivated farmland habitat mixed with weedy fencerows, ditches and corners. Tell Judkins, upland game biologist for the Wildlife Department, advises hunters to look for OLAP CRP lands, crop circle corners, or strip farming. As far as tactics, pheasants will flush when they get to open ground, so try stationing a shooter near open ground, and drive birds toward them — a tactic that works well when you don’t have a bird dog.
Pheasant season runs through Jan. 31, meaning now is a better time than ever to give it a try. Open areas include Alfalfa, Beaver, Cimarron, Garfield, Grant, Harper, Kay, Major, Noble, Osage, Texas, Woods and Woodward counties; and the portions of Blaine, Dewey, Ellis, Kingfisher and Logan counties north of State Highway 51.
- Kasie Harriet is the R3 hunting coordinator for the Wildlife Department and National Wild Turkey Federation.