column By: Bryan E. Bilinski | November, 19
In Part I of this series, a newly ordained bird hunter from Ohio was planning his first major wing shooting trip and asked for some tips. But I couldn’t stop at just 10, so here are some more.
Don’t be late: Nothing will upset the harmony of a hunt quicker than someone sleeping in well past the departure time for the field. Prepare for tomorrow’s hunt tonight, get to bed early, set your alarm clock and promptly join your group for breakfast.
Avoid dogfights at all costs: Dogs that have never been in fights might change their personalities when the pack convenes. Even the most docile couch potato pup can turn into a wolf dog when an invisible territorial boundary is crossed. One snarl or a growl might be all it takes to bring on a rip-roaring dogfight. Once most dogs are in the field hunting for birds, fights are rare — but just wait until you all meet back at the truck or hotel.
Discuss this subject with all the dog owners well before the first rest break on the road trip. Plan how to avoid any dogfights, and then everyone should be vigilant throughout the trip. One good ounce of prevention is to have all the pups on the hunt leashed and walking at heel until arriving at a safe zone to be released for the hunt. After the hunt, all the dogs should be put back on short leashes and then safely walked at heel. Remember, all it takes is one growl or a curled lip on a trip, and all hell breaks loose.
Try to buy your hunting licenses online before you leave: Another deal-breaker is when one or more of the hunting party is driving all over the countryside on opening day trying to find an open sport shop or gas station that sells nonresident hunting licenses.
Be financially prepared: Fill your pockets with cash. Many expenses on a trip can’t be handled with a credit card or check, so sock away anywhere from $500 to $1,000 in 10s and 20s in order to pay for everything from breakfasts at the local diner to guide tips. In an emergency, cash is always king.
Service the trip vehicles: An improperly serviced or maintained hunting vehicle is guaranteed to break down 250 miles from the nearest car dealership. Breakdowns bring every hunting trip to an abrupt halt.
Ethics of the hunt: Your ethics may be different from someone else’s. However, one important ethic says to never, ever return to a hunting spot you were shown by a fellow bird hunter without him. This means he invites you back to his pet spot; you do not return to it without his unequivocal knowledge and/or permission.
Avoid participating in hunting party group limits: Part of the actual trip planning should be a discussion of this practice and an understanding of everyone’s point of view. Just because one hunter is in the hot spot all day, that doesn’t mean he or she has a right to shoot more birds than his legal daily limit. Shooting over the limit with the thought of splitting up the birds at day’s end is a violation of game laws, period. Ethically, it is deplorable.
Steer clear of blatant lawbreakers: If any members of the group you joined are slob hunters knowingly breaking game laws, head 180 degrees in the opposite direction as quickly as possible. If you are compliant with the broken game laws, you might be implicated by association. Once a game warden is called in, your bird hunting trip will come to a screeching halt.
Veterinarians: Know who, where and what the hours are of every qualified small animal vet located within a reasonable drive of your hunting location. Make verbal contact with the closest vet well before your departure date. Introduce yourself (over the phone or even in person) and the types of dogs you are bringing on the hunt. If your dog has any special medical needs, explain them in advance to the vet.
Gifts and “thank-you” cards for hosts and guides: Nothing is better for maintaining the relationship with landowners or friends you join for a big hunt than a simple “thank-you” card or a thoughtful gift after the hunt. The entire hunting party should sign the card, and all should pay equally for any gifts.
Well, Mr. Buckeye, I hope these additional few pointers will help you plan and enjoy a very memorable first bird hunting trip — and not a hunting trip from hell.
Have a question about wing shooting or shotguns for Bryan to answer? Please send it to: firstname.lastname@example.org.