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Flushing in Norfolk County

There is little more exciting than the flush of a cock bird from the natural cover of southern Ontario’s Norfolk County. • Credit: Jeff Helsdon
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Flushing in Norfolk County

Norfolk County is one of Ontario's finest pheasant hunts

The flush of a cock pheasant is something that continues to make my heart skip a beat, even though I’ve experienced it hundreds of times.

Outside of game farms, pheasant hunting in Ontario means visiting Pelee Island or one of the townships with a pheasant release program. Of these programs, Norfolk County’s is one of the finest. It sees a total of 750 birds released on eight different sites. While many programs release birds only prior to the season, Norfolk’s releases are staggered throughout for a hunt that is well worth the County licence fee.

Norfolk County is unique in Southwestern Ontario in the amount of natural cover remaining. Friend Archer Downey and I set out with our dogs in early November, enjoying the rolling landscape along with the anticipation of Norfolk pheasant. It’s a warm day for November and I am wearing only a blaze orange sweat jacket.

man hunting pheasant Southern Ontario’s Norfolk County releases pheasant at eight different areas, staggered throughout the season. (Photo credit: Jeff Helsdon)

We are about five minutes from the parking lot when the dogs get birdy. My springer spaniel Hank flushes a cock bird about 30 yards in front of me. It rises almost vertically before I connect with my second shot.

Archer and I separate, he working the edge of the gully and I the higher land. He flushes one bird but I can’t get a shot off, as I’m not sure where he is. Soon he yells to warn there is a bird on the move and heading towards the woods. I head in that direction and spot the bird. It runs back into the grass and flushes, hits a maximum altitude of four feet and heads down again. I manage to get a shot off, but can’t get under the bird.

It's not long before we hear another cock bird calling and close in. Just as I realize Hank is on the bird and pushing the edge of range, he flushes it. Archer and I both fire but don’t connect. Hank redeems himself, following the bird and flushing it again. It lands in a wooded section next to us. Archer and his wirehair pointer, Eicken, work along the grass while I am on the inside of the woods. Eicken flushes the bird and presents a crossing shot in front of me. I swing and hit it at 25 yards.

We work our way back to the vehicles and flush two birds along the way, but neither is a good shot due to heavy cover between us and the birds. All told we flushed nine birds in two hours – good pheasant hunting in just about anybody’s books.

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