Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Trip Report: Stewart Forest Pheasant Hunt 10/13/13

I know I have been posting quite a bit about my hunting trips lately, and those of you who don’t hunt are probably bored. Not to worry. I have a backpacking trip planned for the end of the month. It’s just that now that different hunting seasons are opening, I have been getting out a lot more often for short hunting trips. This time around, I finally got to go pheasant hunting. My friend Rich loves it, and he agreed to take me with him. His dog Roxy, a Brittany Spaniel, was equally excited.

For this hunt we went to Stewart Forest, here in New York State. For those of you in the area, I’ll go over some of the specifics, because as I promised when I first started writing about hunting, I’ll try to share what I learn along the way in case anyone else is following the same path.

Stewart Forest functions much like a regular state park during most of the year, with trails, camping etc. During hunting season however, special regulations kick in. The park gives special access to hunters, and at times is closed to other visitors. In order to regulate the number of hunters in the forest at any time, the park has a limited number of parking spots for hunters. They are not actual parking areas, just flat places to pull off the road, but for each such spot (there are about 80), only one car can park at a time, and I think only 3 or 4 people are allowed in each car. Once you park, you can only hunt the area on the side of the road where you are parked. This prevent overcrowding in any one particular part of the park. Here is what the DEC hunting map looks like:

Stewart Forest Map

The places marked with a P with a number next to it are the areas where you can pull over when you are hunting. In case you are interested, if you want to deer hunt in this forest, you have to get a special permit (you just have to apply for it), and it is shotgun only, so get your slug gun ready.

Stewart Forest is one of the few places in the area that has relatively flat and open grass lands. That allows for good pheasant hunting, which the park stocks each season. In order to get a good spot, Rich and I drove up to the park on Saturday night. Access for hunting opens in the morning, so we parked and waited at the gates through the night. There were less people than we expected. The night got pretty cold. Sunrise was at 7:06am, so got up at 5:30am and got ready.


As soon as we had enough light, we started with a small field close to the road. Roxy immediately went to work.

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We weren’t able to flush anything out, so we moved to a larger field further south.


Rich is a good friend, so he let me take point. He had already bagged two pheasants on opening day, so on this trip he was mostly amusing me.

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Roxy quickly flushed out a hen. I fired but missed. We continued up a hill, and after some chasing, flushed out a second hen. I again fired, and missed. I fired a second shot, while at the same time Rich fired. I missed again, but Rich got it.

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To my great embarrassment, I missed a third shot when we flushed out a rooster later in the day. It was getting a bit pathetic. I’ve been shooting some trap lately to improve my accuracy with the shotgun, but the excitement of hearing a bird take off, was turning everything upside down. We decided to stop for lunch, and resume later.

In the afternoon we moved further north to a different field. This one had shorter grass, which I was happy about. The tall grass at our previous location was filled with thorn bushes, which were tearing up my legs. We started following Roxy, until we reached a patch of thick bushes. I circled right, and Rich went left. As we were near the far side of the bushes, Roxy caught the scent of a bird, and pointed. Rich told me to get ready, but I couldn’t see Roxy from my position. Just then a hen flushed out. Both Rich and I took a shot. The bird went down. Rich was sure that we both hit it, although in the excitement I didn’t notice anything other than that it went down. A later autopsy confirmed that we both hit it. I was using number 6 shot, while Rich was using 7 1/2, so it was easy to see where each of us hit. Rich was nice enough to pretend like I got this one.

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I hadn’t really planned on how I would carry the bird out, but the floating pocked on my backpack worked well. We decided we were done for the day and headed out.

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Rich showed me how to quickly field dress the pheasants, a necessary chore for the benefit of my girlfriend. Then we were off.

For what it’s worth, I was using my CZ Upland Sterling O/U 12 gauge with modified and improved modified chokes for the hunt with Federal number 6 shot, 1 1/4 oz loads. Rich was using a Winchester semi auto 12 gauge with number 7 1/2 shot. It made no difference. He is a good shot, and I am not. The rest is just for show.

Not that it matters on this trip, but here is the GPS recording of the hunt.


The red box on the map below of Stewart Forest shows the location of the above screen shot with the GPS track.

Stewart Map

It was a great day, and lots of fun, despite my humiliatingly poor performance with the shotgun. I guess it is back to the trap field for me. Much thanks to Rich and Roxy for putting up with me and showing me the ropes.

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