If you’re planning to chase roosters, here are five essential items that will help make your hunt more successful.
A good upland vest should be lightweight and offer plenty of pockets for carrying water, gloves, licenses and any other items you may need during the hunt. I prefer a vest with plenty of shotshell loops (it’s much simpler than carrying a whole box of shells in your pocket) and a large, easy-to-reach game pouch. A vest made with orange material—mandatory almost everywhere—will also make it easier for other hunters to spot you in tall grass, keeping you and others safe. No matter what vest you choose, make sure it fits you so that you can safely and properly shoulder your shotgun (i.e., your gun’s buttstock shouldn’t catch on anything as you move to position it on your shoulder), and so that it doesn’t impede your swing. One that wears comfortably over other layers as hunting seasons progress and get colder is also something to consider.
- Affordable Choice: Gamehide Briar Proof Upland Vest ($34.95)
- Middle-of-the-Road: Browning Pheasants Forever Vest ($89.99)
- Premium Option: Tenzing BV16 ($219.99)
Good boots are essential when hunting pheasants. You’re going to cover some ground in search of birds, so you want one that leaves you without blisters, and you’ll also want a boot that repels water in wet grass. Be certain that the boot fits snugly on the ankle, better to tackle uneven ground, of which there will be lots. In colder climates, you’ll want a boot with a liner made of some type of material like Thinsulate to keep your feet warm on cool mornings, not to mention going for a full waterproof model to deal with snow in the late season. In warmer areas, a lightweight, uninsulated boots works perfectly well.
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Tip: Break in your boots before your first hunt. Getting a blister the size of Arkansas when you’re three miles from the truck isn’t on anyone’s Top 10 list of things to do.
- Men’s Affordable Choice: Cabela’s Iron Ridge Boots ($109.99)
- Women’s Affordable Choice: SHE Outdoor Falcon ($99.99)
- Men’s Middle-of-the-Road: Redhead Uplander II ($129.99)
- Women’s Middle-of-the-Road: Under Armour Speed Freek Bozeman 2.0 ($149.99)
- Men’s Premium Option: Danner Pronghorn ($200)
- Women’s Premium Option: Gokey Custom Classic Upland Boots ($498)
Having the right shotgun can make a big difference when pursuing pheasants. You’ll want a lightweight gun that handles quickly and offers a quick second shot if needed. Screw-in choke tubes allow you to adjust to hunting conditions. Early season birds that hold tight can be taken with a more open choke like Improved Cylinder. Wary late-season roosters that get up ahead of the line and dogs will require something like Improved Modified or even a Full choke.
Tip: Pheasants offer a wide range of shooting challenges from close risers to long crossers and even longer going-away shots. The more practice you get shooting sporting clay targets in the summer, the more prepared you’ll be come hunting season.
- Affordable Choice: Mossberg 500 Hunting All-Purpose Field ($419)
- Middle-of-the-Road: Winchester SX4 ($799.99)
- Premium Option: Benelli Ethos ($1,999)
- Even More Premium: Orvis Classic Side-by-Side ($4595)
- And Even More Premium: Caesar Guerini Forum ($11,120)
Upland Hunting Pants
When you’re pursuing pheasants in tall grass you’ll need a pair of pants that are up to the task. That means they’ll need to be able to protect you from brush and briars and keep your legs dry on dewy mornings and rainy days. Upland pants should also offer a full range of motion so they won’t bind when you’re climbing up an incline or crossing a creek. Plenty of pockets offer additional storage for licenses, car keys and your cell phone, and lightweight fabrics are less bulky when walking long distances.
Tip: The heaviest-duty upland hunting pants are those made with double layers, often with waxed or oiled cotton fronting the parts that will take the most abuse. They can take some breaking in, just like a pair of new boots, before they get comfortable enough to hunt in.
- Men’s Affordable Choice: Wrangler ProGear Upland Jean ($54) www.wrangler.com
- Women’s Affordable Choice: Ugly Dog Hunting Pointer Brush Jeans ($79)
- Men’s and Women’s Middle-of-the-Road: L.L. Bean Precision-Fit Upland Briar Pants ($89)
- Men’s Premium Option: Eddie Bauer Partridge Upland Sof Shell Pants ($179)
- Women’s Premium Option: Kevin’s Huntress Stretch Briar Pants ($139)
- Heavy Duty Oil Finish Option: Filson Double Hunting Pants ($215)
Whenever I hunt upland game, I always wear shooting glasses, and there are several reasons for this. First, anytime you are walking through tall grass and brush, it’s important to protect your eyes from potential injury (including from errant shot pellets). Second, a good pair of shooting glasses reduces glare and makes it easier to see birds flying against a bright sky. The best field glasses offer full-coverage lenses and multiple lens colors that can be swapped-out depending on the ambient light conditions. A good pair of safety glasses can also be used during summer clay target shooting practice.
- Affordable Choice: Radians RSG-3LK ($49.99)
- Middle-of-the-Road: Oakley SI Tombstone Reap ($65)
- Premium Option: Wiley-X Valor ($89.99)
Even if you’re just starting out hunting, you’ve no doubt noticed that there’s a dizzying amount of gear out there. I was asked to pick just five for this column, but if I could add a sixth, it would be gloves. Gloves not only keep you from shredding your hands as you push your way through tough briar patches, they help keep a solid grip on the gun, especially when the weather’s damp. A lightweight pair of soft leather gloves does it for most hunting conditions, though you’ll want something heavier and preferably waterproof for colder days afield. With anything but a form-fitting leather glove, just be sure you can safely engage the trigger—and just as important, get your finger off the trigger and out of the trigger guard—with the glove you choose. One too thick can be dangerous.
Brad Fitzpatrick is a full-time outdoor writer based in southern Ohio. He is the author of more than 400 articles which have appeared in dozens of regional, national and international publications, and he is currently the author of five books on hunting, shooting, history and biology. Brad’s writings and photographs have won multiple awards including the Great Lakes Outdoor Writers Best-of-Best Award as well as the Professional Outdoor Media Association’s Pinnacle Award for Conservation. He and his wife Bethany have two children, Caleb and Audrey.