Woodcock Migration and Early-Season Hunting

Woodcock Migration and Early-Season Hunting

Take a stroll through the thick stuff with your upland dog to take advantage of the timberdoodle migration.

If I'm being honest, and I am, I'd rather hunt grouse. Or pheasants. Or quail. With that out of the way, I will say that woodock hunting has grown on me in recent years. Part of my newfound appreciation for the woodcock is that they are migrators, which means I can find them on public land that is mostly a game desert due to hunting pressure.

The unfortunate timberdoodle doesn't understand when he pitches down into a patch of wormy looking cover that he might be landing on public land in the suburbs of the Twin Cities where I live. This means that while most hunting opportunities are a lost cause, woodcock hunting certainly isn't if you plan it correctly.

As an added bonus, they are a great bird to work an early-season or a young dog on. And they aren't terribly difficult to hit, which is always appreciated during the early part of the season when swinging the over/under for just the right lead doesn't always result in a puff of feathers and a happy dog.

There's much to enjoy about early-season woodcock, but you've also got to know where to look. This isn't as simple as it seems.


Woodcock Cover

I wish I could say that there was a great way to narrow down where the woodcock will be and where they won't. I know conventional wisdom says to check low, wet areas and you'll strike long-beaked gold. The problem with that strategy is that in some areas of the country, there are wet spots everywhere.


Lab holding woodcock


I encounter this in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin every year. The abundance of potential feeding areas is overwhelming and doesn't lend itself to a precision approach. That's okay – it just means you might want to check your aerial photography and plan a route through a property that might take you and your dog through the right stuff.

Re-Think What's Right

The hunt-where-it's-wet strategy works, but I've also found areas throughout my wanderings that were high-ground woodcock magnets. I honestly don't know why the timberdoodles concentrate in certain areas the way they do. Maybe it's because the worms are a little tastier in specific spots – who knows?

I do know that last year I was grouse and woodcock hunting a huge patch of county land in northern Wisconsin when I followed my dog along the top of a ridge in the hopes of running into a ruff catching some morning sun. What we found, instead of grouse, were several woodcock. I shot poorly but scratched out a few birds and wondered why they were there in the first place. I never figured it out, but I do know where I'll be at the end of this month, wandering once again.


Annually Reliable

The good thing about taking a September woodcock walk is that if you do find birds in a spot, you can usually count on it to produce for a couple of weeks at least. And better than that is the fact that the area that was loaded with them last year will likely be loaded with them this year.

And the next.

At least until something drastically changes, like the woods are clear cut and the cover suddenly disappears. Generally, if things stay the same, new flights of woodcock will visit year after year. If you rack up enough steps on your Fitbit for a few seasons watching a dog work the thick stuff, you should eventually end up with a solid milk run of spots.


Woodcock hunting with dog

That's how you end up eliminating bird-less areas and can really focus in on the spots that produce flushes. Of course, you'll still have to keep looking for new areas because that's part of the fun, but having some old reliable spots is never a bad thing.ConclusionThey don't get much love when compared to more desirable upland birds, but the woodcock provides a great excuse to take a long walk through the woods in September. You just might find, with enough time invested in hunting timberdoodle, that you're starting to develop an affinity for the little worm eaters, as I have.

Recommended for You

Here's what to look for when choosing this breed for your next hunting dog. How-To

How To Pick The Perfect Golden Retriever

Tony J. Peterson

Here's what to look for when choosing this breed for your next hunting dog.

Labrador retrievers dominate market share when it comes to what hunters choose for the field and the duck blind - and for good reason. Profiles

Why the Labrador Is the World's Most Popular Bird Dog

Tony J. Peterson

Labrador retrievers dominate market share when it comes to what hunters choose for the field...

          Here's how to ensure you'll have a plentiful supply of birds for training.    By Bob West Accessories

A Mini-House for Quail

Bob West - September 23, 2010

Here's how to ensure you'll have a plentiful supply of birds for training. By Bob...

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 9

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 9

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 9

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 8

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 8

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 8

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 14

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 14

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 14

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

A gun-shy dog is created, not born, and once the damage is done, gun-shyness can prove impossible to cure. Puppies

Introduce Your Pup To Gunfire The Right Way

Gun Dog Online Staff

A gun-shy dog is created, not born, and once the damage is done, gun-shyness can prove...

From the 2019 SHOT Show, here are a several new upland shotguns that caught our attention. Shotguns & Ammo

New Upland Shotguns for 2019

Lynn Burkhead - January 28, 2019

From the 2019 SHOT Show, here are a several new upland shotguns that caught our attention.

Gun Dog Editors Pick Their Favorite Travel Crates and Kennels for 2017
Today's gun dogs ride in Accessories

11 Perfect Dog Crates and Kennels

Tony J. Peterson - October 09, 2017

Gun Dog Editors Pick Their Favorite Travel Crates and Kennels for 2017 Today's gun dogs ride...

See More Stories

More Upland Bird

A couple decades ago, I had a friendship with an unusual gentleman named Datus Proper. Datus lived Upland Bird

Slow Down (Let Your Dog Work)

Dave Carty - August 18, 2016

A couple decades ago, I had a friendship with an unusual gentleman named Datus Proper. Datus...

August scouting is imperative for September dove hunting success. Here's how you should do it! Upland Bird

Best Way to Prepare for September Dove Hunting? Scout Now!

Tony J. Peterson - August 02, 2018

August scouting is imperative for September dove hunting success. Here's how you should do it!

Described as one of the oldest commercial hunting operations in South Dakota, South Dakota Pheasant Upland Bird

Will Stone's South Dakota

Jerry Thoms - September 02, 2016

Described as one of the oldest commercial hunting operations in South Dakota, South Dakota...

See More Upland Bird

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

×