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advice on woodcock???


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boon hogganbeck

I've only hunted grouse and pheasant (over other people's dogs), but I want to target woodcock this year, they seem like cool birds, totally bizarre in an endearing way.  I've got to drive at least 1.5 - 2 hours to get into a huntable grouse population, but I think I can get into woodcock closer to home, for some midweek hunting.  I'm new to the area so I don't have any honey holes, just rumors of woodcock migrating through a couple spots...More than shooting them I just want to get my young dog some wild bird contact this fall. 

 

What advice would you give to a novice woodcock hunter?  Hunt grouse covers, or boggy areas, or river bottoms, or something in between?  Plant life and/or soil types to look for?  And any advice on shooting them?  I know how grouse/pheasant/etc flush but I've never flushed a woodcock... Don't really know what to expect from them. They're a mystery to me, I don't "get them" (an intuition for where they'll be, I mean) like I do for the other game around here.

 

If it helps, I'm in central PA but also hunt WV (home state) a lot.  My setter is doing well with training and will be 10 months old when the season rolls around.

I use OnX and boot-leather for scouting...  I'd appreciate any insight from the seasoned vets on here.  I'm not looking for hot spots, just general insight. 

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Typical MN woodcock cover. Hunt the same general habitat as grouse but a size class smaller(younger). Definitely focus on bog edges with tag alders and other low areas. They are not as difficult to sh

Here are a few things you need to consider: Stem Density - Woodcock need a fairly high stem density to feel protected from above. When migrating the species of the cover isn't as important as th

You might find the following article I wrote for Game & Fish magazine of interest.   Mixed Bag hunting Tips for Grouse and Woodcock   ...It's that keenness for connecting on a

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doodlecrazy

Typical MN woodcock cover. Hunt the same general habitat as grouse but a size class smaller(younger). Definitely focus on bog edges with tag alders and other low areas. They are not as difficult to shoot as grouse but they can be tricky. If you pm me I can email some videos. YouTube is a decent resource for videos to get an idea of how they flush. Small shot and open chokes. No need for anything bigger than 7.5 shot and tighter than IC. 

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Here are a few things you need to consider:

  • Stem Density - Woodcock need a fairly high stem density to feel protected from above. When migrating the species of the cover isn't as important as the stem density or the amount of stems/acre. The higher the stem density the better the chance it'll provide the cover they seek.
  • Soil: Since they probe the ground with their beak they mostly eat worms. Therefore, they need soft ground for probing. Many times they feed in this cover and fly to another cover to rest. If so they'll be feeding in the mornings and in the late evening typically. I have hard the type of soil can impact the number of earthworms it holds but I don't test soil so I can't help you there. You may be able to find some info online or maybe someone else will post info.
  • Ground Cover: While there needs to be a lot of trees the ground needs to somewhat clear so they can move around easily.
  • Misc: Many people say WC are were you find them. I agree with that. They can be seemingly anywhere. Growing up in NW PA I used to find them regularly in rows of field corn. It seems crazy but if you think about it there is good overhead cover and open ground below.

If I were you I'd contact the local  PGC office and let them know you new and if they would have any recommendations for you for places to go. If you are in an area with resident birds you can scout likely areas by walking with the pup, if allowed by state/local laws, or by simply watching the areas at dawn/dusk and see if any birds fly in/around there. 

 

Are you familiar with splash, poop, or probe holes?? If not I will try to find some images I may have and post them.

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boon hogganbeck

This is great info—thanks guys. I scouted a spot last week that seems to fit the bill pretty well, at least in a couple sections...

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boon hogganbeck
50 minutes ago, RuffChaser said:

 

 

Are you familiar with splash, poop, or probe holes?? If not I will try to find some images I may have and post them.


RuffChaser, I’m not familiar with those, so any images you have would be a great help!

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You might find the following article I wrote for Game & Fish magazine of interest.

 

Mixed Bag hunting Tips for Grouse and Woodcock

 

...It's that keenness for connecting on a grouse that causes the problems with woodcock. Woodcock hold tighter, the time to prepare for a flush is longer, and they fly slower. Hunters who are geared up for grouse shoot too fast on woodcock and a load of shot connecting at 10 yards isn't a pretty picture.
 

That's where experience in mixed bag hunting and reading your birddog comes into play. Once you recover from the thunderous flush, a grouse is relatively predictable in its speed and ability to use the surrounding cover as a shield, which is why getting on the bird fast is so important. A woodcock, once its feet leave terra firma with its signature twitter, is less predictable -- so cool your jets. Despite what you may have read, all woodcock don't rise up like a helium balloon, level off at canopy, and slowly depart like a ponderous blimp. Woodcock flushes have more accurately been compared to a major league baseball pitch. Sometimes they blast out straight away like a fastball, sometimes they dive like a curveball, and sometimes they corkscrew like a knuckleball. You can find yourself waving your shotgun barrels around like a baton, and never getting the shot off.

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Rogue Hunter

Surely, you'll find evidence of WC in some odd places. For me, ID'ing splash was very important. Splash on flat surfaces will be about the diameter of a half/silver dollar.

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They can be found many places even fields and pine forests with very little ground cover, have even found them in big Oak forest with basically a bare botton. 

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1 minute ago, dogrunner said:

They can be found many places even fields and pine forests with very little ground cover, have even found them in big Oak forest with basically a bare botton. 

Reminded me of one that scared the s____ out of me in an Oak Flat one early morning getting to my tree stand! No idea why this Doodle was in that spot.

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All good advice here. I’ve found them in alders, poplar whips, Apple orchards, and blackberry canes. Soft soil, damp(stream bottoms and edges), field edges, etc. 

 

Open chokes, I use 7.5-8 Spred R loads, in 20 gauge. Resident birds generally set back down after the flush so watch where they go if you don’t get a shot, or even if you do. Flight birds get up and go, you won’t see them again.

 

Be careful, it’s addictive, and Brad’s Can’t Miss Woodcock Recipe is the way to eat them. Good luck!

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Oh, just in case, as Millriver mentioned...(many people don’t like to eat Woodcock, I’m not one of those):

 

 

 

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Nothing to add--But I will say there is nothing better to train a young pup on.  Doodles hold tight!

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Perhaps someone there can take you out to share the experience to start. I would if you were over here in the Midwest. It’s too short of a life to not share the things that we love with others. 

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