So, you thumbed through your buddy’s old copy of Double Gun Journal. You have seen the countless pictures on Instagram of hunters posing with their limits of quail, pheasant and grouse. You just saw the latest Project Upland video. Man… if only that could be you!
You close your eyes and imagine yourself walking through a field during late October. The sun is still clinging to summer and you feel the warmness of it on your back. Sweat beads roll down your neck, reminding you of how satisfying good-ol’ hard work feels. You breathe in air and catch a faint smell of metal and wood that has soaked up decades worth of sweat, blood, and Hoppe’s No. 9. That old shotgun in your hand feels good. Natural. It’s beautiful. You wonder if its previous owner admired and enjoyed it as much as you are right now…
The brush in front of you erupts with whirring wingbeats and nervous pips! A flash of feathers and beaks! Your heart is pounding from legitimate fright! Excitement and goosebumps take over now, threatening to leave you dropped jawed and your barrel stuck straight up in the air! Wings are still splashing against blue sky. You think, “How long I have I been standing here”? This is your chance! You shift the heft of your shotgun forward. Almost too hard, you slam the butt of the shotgun to your shoulder. Your bead swings to catch up to the last bird in the covey. Your finger meets the trigger…
Your eyes open. You got it bad my friend! So, are you ready to do this? Are you ready to become an Upland Hunter? Some of you might be wondering if you even can at this point in your life. You have no mentors or anyone to hunt with. No dog. You might even not have a shotgun. You may not know where to start or where to look for birds. What exactly is upland hunting anyway?
Upland hunting is a type of hunting that typically involves hunting various gallinaceous birds such as pheasant, quail, grouse, chukar, etc. Some may also consider the wild turkey and rabbit a part of the upland hunting circle, but we will stick with the former group of birds for this guide. It is typically not considered sporting to shoot these birds on the ground or perched. The goal is to flush these birds into flight and shoot them while they are airborne (wing shooting). It is fast. It is exciting. You get to see a lot of beautiful country in between the action.
So, still interested? GREAT!
I want to help you! I did the roadwork. You can benefit from my experience and avoid some of those pitfalls I stumbled into! Like you (possibly), I started my upland hunting career a bit later in life. Although, I had heavily hunted deer since I was a kid, my true experience hunting upland birds did not begin until I was well into my 20’s. In those early days, I had many questions about upland hunting, not enough answers and very few mentors. On that journey to become a full-fledged upland hunter, I did a lot of research, tried to learned a whole bunch and picked up some great tips and tricks. It was not easy. I made a few mistakes along the way, missed a lot of birds, wasted ammo, and bought unnecessary gear.
You do not need to buy everything out of the Orvis catalog. You don’t need a fancy gold-plated shotgun. You may be asking yourself right this minute, “Well, don’t I need a dog”? No. One of the silliest reasons people tell me why they don’t go upland hunting is because they do not have a dog. I hear hunting with a dog is great and all, but it is not necessary. Especially at this point. Glad that is out of the way! In time, you will need specific equipment and preparations to make your future endeavor into upland hunting enjoyable and (somewhat) successful, however. You don’t need anything fancy and you can do it on a budget if necessary.
First thing is first. If you are new to hunting altogether, please do this… Go sign up for hunter safety course and learn about general safety and etiquette for hunting and handling a firearm. If you have a shotgun already or if you can possibly borrow one, I urge future upland hunters to consider a pheasant preserve after they complete their hunter-safety course.
Pheasant preserves are a great introduction into upland hunting as they provide a somewhat controlled environment and allow new hunters to apply the etiquettes and safety requirements they just learned. Pheasant preserves allow a person or party to pay to have farm raised pheasant, chukar, quail, etc. released into designated fields where the shooter (you) will dispatch them. Let me be clear. Pheasant preserves are a great tool for those wanting to train their dogs (if you end up going that route later) and to keep hunters frosty and in “shooting shape” during the off season. Again, it also a great way to introduce new hunters, but it may not be your cup of tea. I personally cut my teeth on a pheasant preserve and gained valuable experience and knowledge from doing so. I personally have not been back to a preserve since that day, but many choose to continue to use them as a beneficial tool and that is okay too!
For all intents and purposes, this next series of blog entries are designed to help those people out who are interested to start their first few steps into upland hunting. In general, these practices can be applied to all forms of upland hunting/wing-shooting. In the next few weeks and months we will cover the following:
Part 4: The Hunt and After
My goal is to pay it forward and help some of you get started in upland hunting. We are a community whose voice is getting louder thanks to social media and technology. Little by little our passion is being exposed to the outside world. Many are unfamiliar, but intrigued by upland hunting and we must all come together and share our knowledge and pass on our legacy to the next generation and I hope I can get some of you on your way to chasing some birds by October. Stay tuned and subscribe!
God Bless and Happy Hunting! -J.R.
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