Upland Hunting: Put More Birds In Your Bag

posted on October 29, 2019

We all know bagging a bird on the wing requires finding one, flushing it, shooting it from the air and then recovering it—none of which are easy. So try these four tips to bag more of them.

If you flush quail or pheasants and watch them fly away and put down in the distance, don’t race right over to them immediately with your dog. Instead, give your dog a drink of water and wait a few minutes. This will give the birds a chance to calm down a little, and mainly it’ll give them the opportunity to spread a little more scent around so your dog can smell them better. While this is tough to prove scientifically, old timers know it’s true. So take your time, let the bird settle, and you’ll actually have a better chance at finding them again.

If you believe a bird is close but it’s holding tight, try stopping and listening for a minute. Pheasants, in particular, feel safe as long as they can hear danger; they know to sit tight if the danger is heading away from them or to slip away if it’s getting closer. However, when they know danger is near but suddenly can’t hear it, their nervousness will often send them to flight. So, when you believe a bird is close but you can’t seem to flush it by walking it up, stand still occasionally for a full minute, and get ready for action. The bird will be so filled with nervous anticipation that he won't be able to sit still for long.

The old adage “aim small, miss small” applies in spades to wingshooting, where quail and pheasants burst randomly underfoot like exploding popcorn. One key to wingshooting is to narrow your focus not just to the bird, but to the bird’s head, or even to the bird’s eye or beak. In addition to sharpening your focus, this will naturally put your point of aim toward the front of the bird, thereby automatically installing some lead. It takes practice and mental training, but over time, if you focus on the flying bird’s head and not just the whir of its wings, the entire bird will seem like it’s flying slower. Then instinctively paste the shotgun’s bead on the bird’s head or just in front of it, pull the trigger and remember to follow through. If you do this, you’ll often wind up with a dead bird in the grass.

Tracking Downed Birds
Combine dogs, shooting and other hunters with a whirlwind of action, heavy brush or grass and some adrenaline, and it’s easy to see how dead birds can be lost when the shooter has forgotten the exact spot where a falling bird went down. To remedy this, tie or sew about 12-inches of blaze-orange ribbon on a half-dozen large stainless steel washers. Keep the washers in the pocket of your shooting vest with their ribbon tails hanging out. When you down a bird, pull a marker from your vest and either hang it on a nearby bush or toss it in the direction you last saw the bird. You can now focus on hitting another bird without fear of losing the bird you've already dropped.

Additional Reading:
• 10 Tips for Pheasant Hunting
• How to Drive Pheasants Where You Want Them to Go
• Tips and Tactics for Solo Pheasant Hunting
• Tips for Field Dressing Game Birds


2022 GBA AOTY Winchester 6.8 Western Lead
2022 GBA AOTY Winchester 6.8 Western Lead

2022 Ammo of the Year: Winchester 6.8 Western

Any way you cut it, this cartridge is a long-range winner. It maintains its energy at distance, and it’s plenty accurate, too.

Pioneering Wild Turkey Research Underway

The National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) is helping fund a new wild-turkey research project conducted by Mississippi State University and the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

2022 Optic of the Year: ATN ThOR 4 Thermal Riflescope

ATN Corp. sits at the cutting edge of consumer-based thermal technology, and its ThOR 4 Series 640x480 2.5-25x50mm is the best such riflescope it offers.

Federal Ammunition Raises $218,000 for Local Organizations

In celebration of Federal’s 100th Anniversary, Federal will be donating more than $218,000 dollars to local organizations in support of their critical missions.

Federal Duck Stamps for 2022-23 Season on Sale

The 2022-23 Federal Duck Stamp goes on sale Friday, June 24. The stamps, which cost $25 and raise about $40 million for conservation each year, are valid from July 1, 2022, through June 30, 2023.

2022 Muzzleloader of the Year: CVA Paramount HTR .40-Caliber

With its hunting-style stock, adjustable comb and premium Bergara barrel, the .40-caliber CVA Paramount HTR is capable of producing centerfire velocities previously thought unattainable from a muzzleloader.


Get the best of American Hunter delivered to your inbox.