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the area of the fall, Jake was having a hard time locating the bird. I could tell that he was hitting fresh scent, but he was not finding the bird. I started looking for the bird hanging on some brush but could not locate it, either. Finally, I looked up and saw the bird hanging about seven feet offthe ground on a tree limb. As the bird fell, a wing had become hooked on a limb and held the bird in the air. I guess a draft was pulling the scent down which was confusing Jake. After about four attempts through the cover, Jake slowed down as he entered the scent cone. When his nose began to leave the stronger scent, he stopped and raised his nose into the falling scent and looked directly at the bird in the tree. He then looked at me as to say, "There is your bird and you will have to get it down." I could not believe that he had located the bird in the treeÖ but he did!

As summer is starting to lose its grip and the temperatures begin to slip down the thermometer at night, I start looking forward to the upcoming hunting seasons. The dogs sense the changes in the weather and I think they also know it wonít be long, now. By the time this story is published, many areas will be within four to six weeks of the beginning of woodcock season. I will try to keep busy in order to pass the time more quickly. My woodcock hunting partners and I have different opinions on types of guns, gear and such - but there is one thing that we agree on. And that is, we like to turkey hunt, fish white bass and trout... and hunt rabbit. They are all fun and enjoyable, but they just help to kill the time until itís woodcock season, again!

Tips for Hitting Woodcock

Woodcock shooting takes a patience, technical skill and a lot of luck.

Patience is needed so that one does not rush a bad shot and miss an excellent opportunity. With flushing dogs, the direction of the flush is quite unpredictable. When a dog drives into strong scent, one can easily think the bird will flush directly away from the dog. However, sometimes the woodcock will hold a little tight and the dog will blow by it. As the dog screams by the bird, the woodcock will flush the other direction. Now with a lot of game birds where the shooting is in more open terrain, the direction of the flush is not as important. But with woodcock hunting, the cover is quite dense and you might only have an opening in one direction to shoot. The patience factor comes into play when the bird flushes and you try to force a shot that is a low percentage attempt. The bird can easily change directions a short distance in the air and offer an easier target if one is ready. By keeping your balance and watching the bird, one can be ready for that quick opportunity.

Technical skill is always helpful in any type of gunning. Having a smooth mount and practiced swing, one can concentrate on the birds flight and not worry about leads and angles. In woodcock hunting, a hunter will not have time for many calculations, but only enough time to mount and squezze the trigger. When one rushes the shot, the squeeze on the trigger becomes a hurried jerk and a missed shot will most likely occur.

Most books will tell a novice hunter that woodcocks flush straight up and all one has to do is wait for the bird to reach its peak above the trees and shoot at that moment as the bird starts its forward flight. Well, this advice might be useful for some flushes but I have seen more flushes where the bird stays low before it rises behind a cedar tree or goes zig zagging through the trees and never rises. One thing is for certain, the woodcocks flight is unpredictable. Due to the unpredictable behaviour, the "lots of luck" is what I hang my hat on. Eventually, a timberdoodle will do something unexpected and allow a hunter to have a wide open shot and the hunter will make a good shot and bag the bird.

I wished I could say that I practiced patience and in the off season worked on the technical skills of gunning. However, I rely on the "lots of luck" in order to bag the majority of my birds. With the anticipation and adrenaline of the hunt, watching the dogs blast through the cover, and enjoying the moment, I usually give the departing bird a shotgun salute and tell him, "Farewell and thanks for the memory."

Tim Baker has been playing with English Springer Spaniels since 1984. He has two Springers currently, Jake and Kasey, which are his hunting companions. They have received some AKC and HRC Hunt Test ribbons. He is a self-proclaimed woodcock addict but his hunting buddies agree with him wholeheartedly. There are few things he enjoys more than chasing these mysterious birds with energetic spaniels. Tim is married to a very understanding wife who LOVES to shop while he is playing with the dogs. He has three kids that have learned to put up with Dad and his dogs.

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