8 Old-School Bird Hunting Tips From Field & Stream

Jerome B. Robinson has been writing about all aspects of the outdoors for more than 40 years. He started at … Continued

Jerome B. Robinson has been writing about all aspects of the outdoors for more than 40 years. He started at F&S; in 1989 and remains a regular contributor, including his monthly tip column. Although he is a generalist, Robinson is best known for his writing on dog training and on hunting and fishing in the Far North.

Bird hunting
Stay Warm in the Rain Wool garments are still the warmest choice for a cold and rainy day. Unlike synthetic fabrics, natural wool fibers remain tightly kinked when wet, retaining the tiny air pockets that trap body heat. These insulating spaces allow air to pass through, however, so make sure to cover up with a windproof shell to maximize heat retention. John Rice
bird hunting
Get Ducks Closer With Black Decoys Ducks often come in lower on the first pass in front of your blind if you anchor a pair of black duck decoys about 100 yards downwind of your full spread. The outlying black ducks appear to be swimming toward the decoy set and give confidence to incoming ducks, causing them to drop altitude earlier in their approach and come in low over the water. John Rice
bird hunting
Down More Birds by Waiting on the Shot When a close-range gamebird flushes in heavy cover, hold your shot until the bird stops climbing and levels off to fly forward. At that moment, the shot is almost point-blank, with no lead required. Keep your eye on the bird, shoulder your gun as it climbs, and then shoot straight at it when the bird tops out above the cover. John Rice
bird hunting
Don’t Call Like a Champ To win a duck calling contest, you need to pack a wide repertoire of sounds into a very short time period. But to impress ducks, all you really need to do is quack. Instead of learning to call from a recording, listen to ducks at a park or refuge and practice the simple sounds you hear. The hunter who sparingly makes a reassuring call in the right pitch and cadence brings in more ducks over his decoys than those who get fancy and call too much. John Rice
bird hunting
Recover Lightly Hit Gamebirds Keep your eye on a bird’s head after you shoot. Dead gamebirds and waterfowl fall with their heads hanging down. A bird that falls with its head up is only crippled and will run for cover or swim away. Be ready to shoot again the instant such a bird hits the ground or water. Direct your dog to pick up cripples first, leaving easy-to-find clean kills for last. John Rice
bird hunting
Find Woodcock Uphill When woodcock disappear from low-lying alder coverts, you may think they have flown south. Don’t be fooled. Woodcock commonly move to higher ground for a while before the southbound migration begins. If you can’t find them in the alders, look for them in hillside stands of white pine or young white birch trees, in overgrown apple orchards, and among thickets of brushy cover in overgrown fields. John Rice
bird hunting tips
Hunt Early and Late for More Birds Gamebirds move around to feed during the first three hours after dawn and the last three hours before dusk, leaving scent that bird dogs find easily. During the midday heat, however, birds rest in cool, shady places and emit few odors. You and your companions will find more action if you hunt in the early morning and late afternoon. Rest the dogs (and yourself) in the noontime hours. John Rice
bird hunting
Make More Crossing Shots Most upland hunters will improve their success rate by shooting a gun with a shorter-than-standard stock. Full-size stocks can limit a shooter’s follow-through motion, but a shortened stock will allow a right-handed shooter to swing farther toward the right (and vice versa), increasing the likelihood of getting a good shot at a crossing bird. Field & Stream Online Editors