We mean it as no slight to the other seasons, but there is just something about autumn. The changing of the seasons brings with it a beauty that keeps minds poetic and a crispness that keeps bodies comfortable. It can be argued that hunters spend two-thirds of the year preparing for this final third, the advent of “hunting season,” the opportunity to harvest fruits from the land. And because you’ve waited all year for this, Pheasants Forever has 10 final tips to ensure this upland hunting season is your best yet!

1.  Get Buddy, Bella and Your Butt Moving.  You shouldn’t take an out-of-shape dog into the field, and you shouldn’t take an out-of-shape “you” there either. Fit dogs equate to fuller game bags, not to mention healthier hunting companions. Find pre-season conditioning tips at Pheasants Forever’s Bird Dog Bonanza presented by Native performance dog food. Don’t take your own physical condition for granted, either. Even with most hunting seasons just weeks away, there’s still time to get a pre-hunt medical check-up and to start a daily walking or exercise regimen. If you’ve never learned CPR or taken a first aid course, now is a good time, and even if you have, a refresher in those areas is always beneficial.

2.  Pre-Hunt GamePlan.  It can be said for many things in life that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail, and pheasant hunting is no exception. So let’s hurry you up to speed. First, get some expectations for this season by checking out Pheasants Forever’s 2008 Pheasant Hunting Forecast. No matter what state you’re hunting in, be sure you’re familiar with that state’s hunting regulations at Pheasants Forever’s State Agency page. Finally, take an equipment inventory. Whether you’re missing anything, or just plain want something new, your upland gear connection is Pheasants Forever’s MarketPlace.

3.  Post-Hunt Exam.  The hunt is done, and hopefully you’ve managed to slide a rooster or two into your vest. But there is one more step before you’ve wrapped up your day’s work. Spending just a few minutes directly following the hunt to run your dog through a post-hunt exam can eliminate or alleviate problems later on. Look over the dog for obvious abrasions or bleeding. Then check the dog from head to toe. Start at the head and then check the mouth, tongue, nose, lips, eyes and ears. Next, look over the neck, chest and abdomen. Finally, check the feet and legs – typically the biggest problem area – for any abnormalities. Your bird dog can’t tell you what’s ailing, so you have to pay attention to their behavior and take the time to give them a good exam after every trip afield.
4.  Steel a Few Boxes.  While lead is still the mainstay for many upland hunters, it is not permitted everywhere. Thankfully, Federal Premium has expanded its Pheasants Forever royalty program with the introduction of Pheasants Forever Steel loads. Pick up a few boxes now, and save yourself the hassle later. Initially they will be available in 12 and 20 gauges 3″, #3 and #5 options. For more information on Pheasants Forever Steel loads, as well as the rest of the Federal Premium line-up, visit www.federalpremium.com .
6.  Cast and Blast.  Habitat across the pheasant range helps improve water quality and protects fish populations in many places as well. The crossover between hunting and fishing in the United States is quite high, as nearly 70 percent of hunters are also anglers. And fall – with great angling opportunities for walleye, pike, musky, bass and panfish across much of the pheasant range – is no time to put away the rod and reel and become a one-trick pony. For many anglers, the fall bite is can’t-miss, so bookend a day of fishing with morning and evening hunts, then enjoy your reward that evening:  A combo platter.

6.  Add Some Seasoning.
  All hunters have their favorite spots, honey holes they religiously return to year in and year out. With good reason, as these spots have proven to be productive – or else why come back? But do yourself a favor this year and try becoming less a creature of habit and more a creature of habitat…new habitat that is! Make it a point to trek some new ground this year. Do some sleuthing – or “sloughthing” if you’re waterfowling – and find a new tract of public land or knock on the doors of a few area landowners to open up some new opportunities for yourself. Variety is the spice of life, and makes a great seasoning for any hunter! If you do happen to gain permission, thank a landowner with a Gift Membership to Pheasants Forever.

7.  Vote on November 4th.  Okay, a trip to the ballot booth isn’t as exciting as one to the backwoods, but taking a few minutes to fulfill your civic duty goes a long way to ensuring continued support for the outdoors. Typically, there is strong voter turnout among sportsmen and women. But if you’re one who loves the outdoors and hasn’t drawn the direct correlation between casting a ballot and casting a line, time to wise up. Year in and year out, elected officials from all levels of government have hands in decisions affecting regulations and outdoor funding. Get to know the candidates and where they stand on issues related to conservation and the outdoors. And, if you are going to be “a traveling hunter” on November 4th, be sure to pick up an absentee ballot in advance.

8. Your Heir Apparent.  By now its common knowledge that hunter and angler replacement numbers are not keeping up with the hunter and angler attrition rates. If you were gone, you’d like to know your family was taken care of. Wouldn’t you also like to ensure your outdoor legacy will continue long after you’ve hung up the hunting boots? A great place to start is Saturday, September 27th, and the hundreds of nationwide events that make up National Hunting and Fishing Day (www.nhfday.org), of which Pheasants Forever is a partner. Also, Pheasants Forever’s No Child Left Indoors™ initiative is meeting this challenge head on, as is our Grassroots Conservation Campaign.

9. Join Pheasants Forever.
  The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reported in 2006 that hunters and anglers spend $76 billion each year (about $2,200 per person) on gear, travel, etc., yet only contribute $22 million in support for conservation group projects. The fact is the average sportsperson is spending $2,200 every year to enjoy hunting and fishing, and (excluding state and federal license fees and special tax fees) is giving back less than $2 every year to ensure hunting and fishing opportunities in the future. You can talk about the need for conservation, or you can do something about it. Log onto www.PheasantsForever.org today and join, donate, attend a local PF banquet, volunteer as a chapter officer, or pick up some PF merchandise! We need YOU and so do the roosters!

10.  National Pheasant Fest 2009 Presented by Cabela’s.  Close your season in style by doing what any sensible outdoor enthusiast would do – get ready for next year! National Pheasant Fest 2009 Presented by Cabela’s will be held February 6-8, 2009, at Exhibition Hall at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wisconsin. For more information on the nation’s largest event for upland hunters, landowners, sport dog owners and wildlife habitat conservationists, log onto www.PheasantFest.org .  Make your plans and book your hotel room today.