Pheasant Hunting After First Ice

Serious pheasant hunters here in the Midwest anxiously await the first ice of the season strong enough to walk on. When the ice first gets thick enough to support my weight, the dogs and I head for some cattail sloughs, which just cannot be hunted until the ice is thick enough to walk on. I’ve had some great pheasant hunting after ice-up. It’s as if the roosters, which live in these places just can’t believe that someone has finally gotten to them. But I can tell you from experience, that they won’t be surprised the second time you skate out there on the ice. Roosters catch on in a hurry!

I carry a pair of ice cleats in my shooting box just for these on ice pheasant excursions. Skating around on slick, new ice with a shotgun in your hands is just asking for trouble. Also, until the ice has had a couple of really cold nights to firm up, I try to avoid muskrat huts. Muskrats always have runs leading from their dome-shaped houses to feeding sites and because of the current created by their back-and-forth movements, the ice in a muskrat run might not be strong enough to support you. It’s best just to skirt around muskrat houses.

Because I still do not always listen to my own advice, I carry a complete change of clothes, including boots in my vehicle. Sure it’s uncomfortable sitting on the tailgate of a pickup stripping off soaked clothes and putting on dry duds, but more than once, it has saved a day of hunting for me.

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