What to know when you go pheasant hunting on public lands
When I go hunting it is either on public land, as I don't know of anyone who owns any pheasant ground near the metro, or the game farm, as I just need to put my dog on some birds. I wanted to touch on some basics on what to look for when looking for a plot as well as some safety concerns with this kind of hunting.
Finding your perfect public land
As a forewarning, I do most of my hunting in MN, my resources will be those of the MN DNR but I am certain that every state's DNR service has comparable resources with a simple google search.
With that being said, I begin my search online before the season starts to determine where the highest population of pheasants have been reported by the DNR. For MN this can be found here. As you can see on the graphs, I would want to focus on the West Central. For me, Chippewa and Swift counties will be the reported strongest numbers of birds closest to Minneapolis.
With that sorted, I want to find the exact wildlife management areas in Chippewa or Swift county to hunt. I can find that information here by filtering by Chippewa and Swift counties and the game I am going for. For Swift county, I have 16 areas, awesome. Let's take a look at one.
If you can, always switch the view to satellite, or if necessary look up the area on google maps to get this view. Doing this provides a much better view of the actual land and composure. In MN, I have had the most luck around wet prairie, small trees and mesic prairie so this is what I am looking for in a public wildlife management area (WMA), Walk in Access (WIA) or federal waterfowl production areas (WPAs). Additionally, I usually hunt with 4 or more of us and dogs so I am looking for a larger area which can be indicated by how many acres it is. If you are hunting solo, aim for the small plots as they won't be hunted as heavily.
I am going to pick 5-7 of these that match my criteria and write them down. The reality of hunting public land is that a lot of people are going to be aiming for the same area and more than likely going to hit them on the weekend. To ensure that you are able to hit your first choice you will need to get there 30 mins before the opener, in MN this is 9am. If you aren't the first one there, use your priority list and go to the next.
Public land hunting safety
When I hunt I don't worry much about my buddies as I have hunted with them all many times and know they are serious about firearm safety. On public land this is another story. You do not know if Joe/Jill Schmo has ever gone pheasant hunting, if he/she has a dog (if so, is it trained?), if they have gone through firearm safety, or a plethora of other issues. This is why it is so important to be as safe as possible so you can at least control the situation as much as possible.
As you are looking for your area (as highlighted above), if there is someone there, move onto the next and come back to it later (they will have left at least one there!). It's not worth hunting an area that is new to you with another group that could possibly be a hindrance to your group.
Wear eye protection and as much blaze orange as you can! I can't count how many times I have had BBs rained on me from another shooter that didn't see us on the other side of the hill or from a careless shot. If you don't think the other group sees you, safely make sure you make it a point that they do.
To my point about blaze orange, I always wear a blaze orange vest, hat and will be creating a blaze orange SleeveShield™ to add more visibility when hunting. To be honest, I also created the blaze orange option because I have laid my gun down before and had a hell of a time finding it again!
I know many don't have their own land to hunt on, and I would hope that everyone can use the above to find some land that your taxes pay for and stay safe on them!
Good luck and happy hunting.