You’ve got time when a pheasant flushes underfoot – even time to hang out for a while.
The main reason most upland hunters miss flushing birds is because they shoot too soon. That’s my conclusion, anyway, after once again doing my annual turn as a “celebrity” in a local charity hunt/shoot (Aimingforacure.com; a good cause). It’s the one time of year I hunt with regular hunters — as opposed to people like me, who hunt and shoot all the time and are eaten up with it — and I get to watch average hunters shoot. Not surprisingly, since they rarely practice, they shoot birds the way I shoot pool.
The hunt portion of the event is a preserve pheasant hunt. We line up and follow some very good dogs through a field full of put-and-take pheasants. Because I am the celebrity and everyone else is a paying customer, I figure it’s my job to let them do the shooting and say “Nice shot!” when a bird falls. If they miss, I shoot backup. So I have lots of chances to watch people shoot flushing birds on these hunts. Almost everyone reacts to the blur of the bird by opening fire immediately. They either miss or if they don’t, they often mangle the bird or scratch it down the pattern fringe. I usually have plenty of time to wait for everyone to empty their guns before I shoot whatever birds I shoot during the hunt.
Conventional wisdom says hunters get distracted by the pheasant’s long tail. I don’t believe that. If it were true, you would see tails shot off. I have shot a lot of pheasants and have seen a lot shot and I have never yet seen one get de-tailed. Instead what happens when you try to shoot fast is that your head isn’t on the gunstock, and you’re shooting at the whole bird before you actually lock your eyes onto the front end. Shots taken that way are almost always missed over the top, not behind. Once pheasants are under power, though, people aim at them and miss behind. However, they don’t miss and hit the tail, they miss by many, many feet behind.