By Jeff Dennis
Wingshooting season peaks in the fall with the pursuit of migratory birds like doves and ducks.
A transition to upland hunting occurs in winter when pointers work to find bobwhite quail to flush.
Pheasant tower shoots become more popular at the end of winter as a way to supplement time spent in the field.
Hunters take aim as these birds fly by, but their large size can make them tough to bring down.
The premise of the hunt remains the same at tower shoots everywhere, to release pheasants from an elevated central point in an open field, with hunters stationed in blinds around it.
In the flat terrain of the coastal plain, the tower must be tall so that the pheasants fly at a sporting height.
Other pheasant towers in the rolling foothills may not have to be elevated if the topography surrounding it slopes downward.
Like the best wingshooting hunts, a pheasant tower shoot allows for lots of camaraderie before, during and after the hunt.
This is a group hunt, and it takes a team of hunters coming together at one time, or else you simply won’t have enough guns.
Hunt organizers make it clear that all shooting takes place in front of the blind.
This style of hunt is conducted with a rhythm and cadence that usually limits any awkward shooting situations.
There are at least twelve blinds and each blind holds two shooters, with the blinds spaced apart about a gunshot length.
Large hay bales usually provide an ideal hunting blind.
It’s up to each blind to decide if they want to take turns shooting, or if they just want to shoot what comes to their side of the blind.
Either way, one must stay ready because no one knows what the pheasants will do.
The hunters and the dog handlers wear blaze orange for maximum visibility and safety during the hunt.
Retrievers like Boykin Spaniels and Labradors are stationed in the nearby wood line in order to fetch the birds, since hunters are to stay in their blind.
There are regular pauses during the hunt so that all the hunters may rotate clockwise to a new blind, in an effort to keep the shooting equal for all.
For instance, occasionally a prevailing wind can keep the pheasants heading in the same general direction.
A bullhorn siren is a useful tool when the hunt master wishes to communicate with the entire cadre of participants.
You can view the entire field from your blind, so it is easy to see the pheasants no matter which direction they fly.
Some missed shots during the hunt are common, but accuracy improves with each encounter.
A twelve-gauge shotgun with full chokes for distance shooting is a popular option during a tower shoot.
When hunters rotate between blinds, the dogs scurry around picking up dead and wounded pheasants.
The dog handlers are not shooting, but they are participating in the hunt by working their canines.
Like all hunting seasons, the time for pheasant tower shoots dwindles as warm temperatures usher in spring.
Both the birds and the dogs don’t perform as well in the heat and other outdoor endeavors will come into focus.
Getting to go on a pheasant tower shoot at different locations will reveal which fields hunt the best over time.
Then return each year to your favorite location and see how the hunt plays out differently each time.