By Joe Healy
The one quibble I have with Steve Smith’s excellent new book—really, the only quibble—is the title: America’s Bird—The Many Faces of Pheasant Hunting. How could the pheasant, a transplant to the US from Asia, be considered “America’s bird?” “America’s adopted bird,” maybe, or “naturalized transplant,” perhaps.
No matter. For readers of SSM, the point is that pheasants are here to stay, because demand has made them vital. And because Americans are driven to hunt them, we need specialized information to do it effectively. Smith delivers in a breezy, accessible writing style, and his book is abundant with facts and seasoned advice throughout. Readers also will enjoy the color photos as well as artwork by Smith’s talented son Chris.
Pheasants have the very American story of being from somewhere else yet making parts of the US home. Introduced from Asia in the 1800s, as Smith describes in the book, populations swelled in Heartland states to the point where today the birds are a cash crop for landowners and hunting-lodge operators. As sporting targets for upland hunters and their dogs or raised for sale to restaurants, individuals and meat markets, pheasants have become upscale poultry wherever the birds have taken hold—particularly in states like South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Montana.
Having written about upland hunting for almost 40 years in magazines and books, Smith has hunted pheasants for decades, and he covers a lot of ground with his advice on getting the most from hunts in the US as well as driven shoots in the UK. He starts with the tools needed for pheasant hunting, beginning with dogs. He discusses the merits of pointing dogs versus flushing dogs and the techniques for shooting birds over each. He also offers advice for hunting in small groups as well as large groups. Smith covers all the likely habitats and situations in which you’ll find pheasants—mainly in the wild but also at game preserves. A realist by experience, he points out that pheasant hunting usually requires an investment in travel time and money to find birds in huntable numbers. And he maps out hunting for the birds in logical sections, such as “Techniques,” “Travel,” “Pay to Play” and the catchall “Etcetera.”
This book will prep you for pheasant hunting wherever and however you do it.
America’s Bird—The Many Faces of Pheasant Hunting is available for $24.95 from Steve Smith.