Weapons of feathered warriors

Most people know rooster pheasants carry some amazing colors, but many may not know they carry some impressive weapons, too.

Both legs of the male birds come with spurs they mainly use for springtime turf wars, or battles over some hot-looking hen. (Hank, my Lab, has a small scar on his lip from a spur wound inflicted by an old rooster on one of his first upland hunts.)

For hunters and biologists, the length of the spurs can be an indicator of the bird’s age. Pheasants hatched just the previous spring or summer normally have just pimple-sized, dull spurs on their legs. Older birds have longer spurs that can literally be sharp as needles.

A few duck hunts back Hank got side-tracked by the scent of a running rooster as we walked along. After some work, he got a gorgeous rooster to flush. Somehow, I hit the thing. The happenings were made even better when I saw the bird carried wicked,  5/8″ spurs that were sharp and curved downward. I’m guessing it was probably a three-year-old bird, which would make since because of the great hatch of 2010.

This year about half of the pheasants my friends are shooting are longspurs…that’s about 4-5X what it should be in years when there’s been good reproduction.

Long, curved spurs indicate an old rooster pheasant. These were 5/8″ long. The best I’ve ever gotten was 3/4″ of an inch.