It’s that “upland” time of year for scattergunners
If this is October, it is time to go upland hunting for birds, bunnies and assorted other things. There is something special about upland hunting in general and upland bird hunting in particular. Doesn’t matter to me if it is for quail, partridge or pheasant. Taking long walks in wild places is both exhilarating and calming at the same time.
I’ve gone just about full-circle when it comes to what an upland outing means. At first, it was about food. Literally, I hunted upland game and every other kind of game available for food, and mostly for food only. In those days, I could walk to the areas where I hunted, and if I scored, the family had meat with the potatoes. If I didn’t score, we had potatoes. Great motivator for scoring.
THE AUTHOR SHOWS a brace of rooster pheasants. Pheasant hunting is one of the most enjoyable upland hunts available.
Then as a young man, limits had meaning. The success of an outing was measured mentally by whether a limit was taken.
Now, I judge success differently. Now, I first celebrate just being able to be in the wild and add to the success rating if I happen to be able to flush a bird or two. If I bag one or so, all the better. And, I tend to have a pretty good hit percentage.
Although I truly enjoy hunting behind good bird dogs, I rarely have that luxury these days. My lifestyle doesn’t allow for keeping a dog of my own properly, and it seems difficult to match schedules with others who do. So I end up going afield with shotgun in hand, walking slowly and paying attention to my surroundings. On a good day, I kick up an average of a bird a mile.
Yet one of the most enjoyable quail outings I have ever been on resulted in a single bird from almost 20 miles of meandering. It tasted great, but it did require a larger portion of rice to be filling.
Pheasant hunting for me is the quintessential upland experience. I don’t know how to explain it, but when a big rooster pheasant breaks from cover, all is right with the world. Late season birds are best of all.
In the early years, I used a 12-gauge shotgun for most bird hunting — upland and waterfowl. I still use a 12 for waterfowl and late season pheasants, but not so much for most upland hunting any more. Now, the gun usually is a 20- or 28-gauge for pheasants and partridge, or .410 for quail. The reason for the smaller gauge guns is weight. I prefer to carry something lighter if I am going to be carrying it all day.
Whether the upland hunts this year will be in state or somewhere else around the land, the important thing is that there be upland hunts.
Every kind of hunting has its allure. Upland hunting sings out, both most loudly and sweetly for many of us. This is my 66th upland season and as the years go by, these hunts take on more and more meaning.
* * *
Steve Comus is a nationally recognized hunting editor with Safari Club International and a former WON Guns and Hunting Editor. His column appears every other week in WON and he can be reached at email@example.com.