Hunting Upland Game Birds: A Test of Skill and Patience

bird, chukar partridge, ornithology

One of the best experiences in sports is having a day out at a meticulously-maintained shoot estate in Norfolk or Lincolnshire. A professional hunting guide and his team will ensure a consistent, but not overly predictable, the flow of game animals to the shooters. It takes enormous effort and experience to achieve this. On even the most meticulously maintained grounds, a blank trek may occur occasionally; partridges are much more uncertain in terms of their movements than pheasants. The wise keeper will slowly lead the birds over the firing range and occasionally rush them to test the shooters. Excitement is not necessarily dependent on the targets being far away; sometimes, the best shooting may lie at a moderate distance. Similar to grouse shooting, requiring a comparable shooting strategy. 

A team of hunters with the proper mindset doesn’t need large bags to have many shooting opportunities.

Alectoris rufa, commonly called Redlegs, is the most popular hunting game bird. These birds may have been brought to this region from France during the 1700s to add to the population of native grey birds (Perdix perdix), which are usually smaller and tend to remain together. At the same time, they fly together in a group. In Great Britain, partridge shoots that only hunt that type of game bird became popular in the mid-1800s. Today, mixed shoots where partridge and pheasant can be hunted are often held later in the season. Most of the quarry is usually redlegs, as gray partridges are rare except in estates that preserve the sport of partridge hunting. Many former athletes (plus a few modern ones) believed that shooting wild English partridges was the most interesting activity. However, a small proportion of people nowadays have the opportunity to do it. The sight of them is still lovely, following the shape of the land like tiny fighter planes and creating a unique hum.

I’m not very interested in the current trend of “high partridge” shoots, in which miniature pheasants are ejected from high places, primarily in Northern and Western provinces. However, I understand the difficulty of trying to hit these wandering birds without it being too hard. The beauty of traditional partridge shooting, which involves birds flying over hedges and spinneys, does not come from shooting them on a range but is something special. This sport has been around for a long time and is following its natural environment. I also enjoy hunting partridges with pointers and setters in the traditional way. On occasion, it can still be seen in the United Kingdom. However, this kind of partridge hunting is much more common abroad. I can say for sure that it happened in the United States, Canada, and parts of Europe like the Balkans and southern Africa. A small number of birds can be a lot of fun (but make sure to watch the dogs and stay alert).

Hunting Tips for Upland Game Birds

We got tips from hunters in both places to help them catch the most fish possible.

Chukar

Chukar

Chukar favors grassy terraces, steep chutes, outcroppings of rock, and brush. Because they will hold still for a long time before taking off, providing shooting possibilities, hunting them from above is typically more successful. You can also watch their landing zones and do your work there. Because shot birds can be hard to find, choose a landmark where they land.

The most popular and effective way is to hunt with a dog since getting close to these fast, elusive birds can be hard. A dog will detect the birds, focus on their location, and point birds, offering additional practice for the next rapid-fire shooting. Dogs are also quite useful for retrieving birds.

Chukars move quite quickly, whether sprinting uphill or darting down a bluff. A tried-and-true tactic is to operate parallel to a canyon or ravine with one hunter high and one low, with the dog working the gap.

If you want to go chukar hunting without a dog, you can learn their calls and attempt calling for them. If you’re having trouble spotting birds, try making 6 to 8 calls while taking a snack or water break. Birds utilize sounds to regroup once the covey is dispersed. You could hear back and be able to rise above them.

Chukars are naturally shy and skittish birds, so being quiet and sneaky will help you get close to them. Whistling, rock-kicking, and other loud noises like Velcro, metal-on-metal clanging, etc., should all be avoided. Keep voices to a whisper. Birds will see you, but they are more likely to remain put while you close the distance instead of flying away as soon as they hear your loud approach.

When dealing with Chukar, which lives in the rougher, drier, and fewer-level areas of Eastern Washington, it is important to consider safety. You should go hunting with someone else if you hurt yourself and need help, like if you sprained your ankle. 

Quail

Quail

Don’t shoot at birds that are flying low. Your hunting partner(s) or dog may be in danger because you’ll lower your muzzle parallel to the ground.

Hunt close to open fields or, ideally, in crop fields that provide a range of food sources, such as insects and worms that may also thrive there. Clear-cuts, natural openings, and land near marshes or wetlands are all good examples of natural margins and places where habitats change.

To avoid unnecessarily startling coveys, move carefully and quietly. If the habitat permits, quail will sprint quickly and may or may not fly. Before letting them know you’re there, the closer you get, the better.

When birds transition from roosting to feeding and back, they are most active, hunting at first light and during the last hour of daylight.

Quail will seek thermal protection along ditches, brush lines, or other brushy habitats late in the season. As you move slowly and prepare to aim, concentrate on these locations.

Pheasant

Pheasant

When it comes to these cunning birds, stealth is king. If a rooster pheasant sees you coming, it can hide in the grass and bushes and almost disappear. The chance that the bird will take off and present a shooting opportunity increases when there is a sense of surprise. To talk to your partner and dog, move softly and quietly and use your hands whenever possible.

Instead of going too quickly through prime habitat, working cover in a zigzag pattern will allow you to cover more land thoroughly. Spend some time pausing because birds that are being held still may suddenly move at close range, giving you great chances to shoot.

Hunt in edge habitats close to or within fields, such as fence lines, irrigation ditches, blackberry patches, or timber edges next to open fields, which are important food sources.

For more action, hunt from midday till dusk. Although hunting at first light can be quite fruitful, many hunters often nap or take extended rests in the middle of the day. Later in the day, birds begin to become more active as they leave the dense cover for more open roost places. Grassy patches near the edges of fields or crop fields make excellent twilight habitats.

Hunting last year 

Many hunters tend to clean and store their shotguns as the days grow shorter and the temperatures fall. Wait a minute. Those ready for the colder months can take advantage of less hunting pressure and birds actively gaining weight on leftover grains and corn in stubble fields. Ice may cover nearby cover, like marshy areas that had water earlier in the year. This gives birds staying for the winter a great place to stay safe.

Grouse

grouse, bird, animal

Conifers, brushy undergrowth, and a good amount of gravel—naturally occurring or provided by road systems—make up the preferred habitat for grouse. Pay attention to locations that offer a balance of these factors, especially those that are exposed to direct sunshine during the midday hours.

Grouse often go back to the same restricted areas year after year because they have learned to live there. If you see or capture birds one year, keep a journal of your observations or mark the location with a pin on your GPS or preferred mapping app.

If you miss your shot, you can use binoculars to look at nearby tree limbs where grouse often land to change their position. They can be located for a second shot opportunity since they frequently bob and move around in the woods.

Grouse consume a wide range of foods, including bugs and blackberries. Check the crop after you catch a bird to see what it is eating, and then concentrate the rest of your hunt on those food sources.

Slowly zigzag through the cover, stopping to change directions and then zipping back the other way. Birds that normally stay fast as you pass by in a regular cadence may become frightened by the erratic pattern.

Dealing with Driven Birds

Tackling Driven Birds

How do you handle driven partridges? It is said that they are an easy target since they aren’t usually capable of flying swiftly. This could be true, but it could also be misleading because the fast flapping of their wings and the way they glide can make people think incorrectly. The average speed for a partridge to fly is about 30mph, with pheasants reaching up to 35mph (or faster) and pigeons hitting up to 50mph in straight flight. Unless they are in the process of landing, wildfowl is even faster. It is easy to underestimate how quickly partridges travel when they are close together, which can lead to missed shots in front. Still, it misses behind and to the side of the birds are fairly common as well. Partridge is undeniably the greatest in shooting due to having an intuitive style and following basic guidelines of good sight. They usually don’t need much thought beforehand when shooting targets at a medium distance or closer (except for targets placed higher than usual). If you become overly anxious about leading, it may harm your performance.

Even though the birds are not going that quickly, partridge shooting can be incredibly hectic when the birds scatter in different directions. Safety must be kept in mind, and excitement must be controlled. Choose your target wisely and contemplate the heavens before firing. Hold the gun barrels up, and keep your finger straight along the loop surrounding the trigger when you are not shooting. Don’t hesitate to act when the moment arrives; dive right in and don’t tarry to check if the animal is “yours.” Skilled partridge hunters may be too quick or sluggish, mimicking a pheasant’s mannerisms. A specific firearm declared to a visitor keen on counting the number of shots and cartridges they used: “Hurry up already, would you?” Some shooters are pretty strict regarding the right way to behave. Partridge shooting is not pheasant shooting. When a flock of birds takes off suddenly from the area in front of you, their flight paths are not always predictable. If your group is having fun and following the safety regulations, having a pre-drive discussion with the guns would be beneficial, saying something along the lines of not worrying about who gets which bird when they start arriving. 

It would be even better if the shoot captain addressed this, as it would add to the fun of the experience.

Aim for the partridge 30 yards ahead quickly, without hesitation or delay. The best way to start is by taking your first bird out at that distance. They must be shot at carefully; killing a group of birds is a significant mistake. Becoming proficient with these birds necessitates a regularly exercised, productive mount and unswerving focus. Walsingham’s dictum “don’t check” applies. Since it is easy to misjudge the velocity of partridges, some people may mistakenly rush to a halt after placing themselves in a situation where they must fire the gun rapidly. Don’t hurry too quickly, but don’t take too long.

As with other birds, excelling at hunting partridges demands one to be aware of how they move their feet. Construct a platform where your feet do not exceed a certain distance apart. You can rapidly step from side to side and back to center when shooting in multiple directions. Do not become preoccupied with how you do things. However, drastic measures like bending your knees too much or pushing your bottom out should be avoided. 

Maintaining proper posture is vital for balance and the ability to move quickly, either left or right. If an unexpected bird appears on my right, I should try to shift my weight to the right foot. Niceties tend to break down under pressure.

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