Upland hunters are a choosy bunch, each with their own favorite quarry and hunting style. Debates (and full blown arguments) rage in hunting camps across the country over which gamebird offers the best gunning. Here’s a list of our eight favorite gamebirds. See if your favorite made the list.
Dove season opens early and bag limits are liberal. Dove shooting is often a group event and is a great way to introduce new shotgunners to wingshooting. The weather is usually nice during dove season and dove breasts taste great.
Whether you pursue Easterns, Osceolas, Merriams, or Rio Grandes, wild turkey hunting is about as much fun as you can have on the right side of the law. The interaction with the bird makes turkey hunting more rewarding than some “flush and kill” style hunts and wild turkeys, like their domestic cousins, make great table fare.
Though the population of these imported birds has decreased in recent years, there are still hunting opportunities across the country. Hear a rooster cackle once after being flushed from cover by your favorite dog and you’ll be a pheasant hunter for life. Pheasants are relatively slow flyers, making them perfect targets for older hunters who may have lost a step or two over the years.
This group of gamebirds ranges from small and quick (green-winged teal) to large and stocky (common eider.) The diversity in size, plumage, flight patterns, and feeding habits will keep waterfowlers guessing and coming back for more.
Though these Galliformes live most of their lives on the ground, they are capable of achieving astonishing flight speeds in very short order. Ruffed grouse hunters are often left startled and shaking their heads after a bird has beat his hasty and noisy retreat. Ruffed grouse can be hunted with or without a dog as long as the hunter is willing to work for his shots.
Canada and snow geese both offer waterfowlers some excellent hunting opportunities. These big birds are challenging to bring into gun range, often requiring dozens of decoys along with good calling. However, if you set up along a flyway and stay hidden, your chances of success are pretty good.
These migratory birds are often found in the same coverts as ruffed grouse, but their flight pattern is much slower. During the woodcock migration, upland hunters never know what to expect when a dog gets birdy and, when a woodcock flushes, often end up looking like a batter swinging for a fast ball and getting an off speed pitch. Their diet of earthworms and long migrations impart a unique flavor that most hunters either love or hate.
Like ring-necked pheasants, modern farming practices have lowered the quail population in many areas. That doesn’t mean you still can’t successfully hunt one of our most traditional gamebirds. Pointing dogs are extremely helpful while chasing bobwhites, but a group of hunters willing to beat some brush can also experience success. Quail are typically gathered in coveys of 8-25 birds and when they flush in front of you, it will make an impression. Try not to be so stunned that you forget to single out a bird and shoot.
If your favorite gamebird didn’t make the list, let us know in the comments section below. Otherwise, keep your shotgun oiled and your bead on target.