Scouting Public Hunting Land For Upland Birds
I scout public hunting land for birds year round, and thought I would share some tips and tactics that work for me with a couple of different game bird species. When scouting a likely area for birds, I take a GPS an a map of the area.
Most public land bird hunting is not hard to obtain information on. Most of the best information will be through ODFW or BLM. The Forest Service is also a great source of information.
I always use a GPS to mark areas and mark them on a map. This way I get a ??? to go by. When scouting on public land, always be prepared to stay and unexpected night. Car troubles, flat tires, or even getting turned around are good reasons to prepare for the worst. Even a flash flood or a rock slide can leave your stranded. If something like this happens, always check your map. There might be a different way out.
When scouting for Ruffed Grouse, I look for springs and creek bottoms that have a good source of food like berries and clover. The cover I am looking for here in Oregon is fir mixed with beech or birch trees and a gooseberry bushes and other leafy cover. I usually drive roads in the area around 8 or 9 a.m. or in late evening to get an idea of how many birds are in the area. Since you can’t call grouse, it’s kind of a crap shoot until you drop the dogs and hunt an area a couple of times. Also, I mark all of these areas on a map and note how big the area is so that I know how many dogs to bring and if I should use pointers or flushers. This also helps me to know whether or not I can hunt the area with another person.
Blue Grouse like breaks and saddles on top of ridges of mountains. When scouting for them, I check for huckleberry patches below the ridge or stock tanks in the evening hours. I check the edges of the timber in the afternoon and morning for birds dusting or catching grasshoppers. I mark all of my findings on the map or with the GPS.
When scouting Mountain Quail, I use the same tactics as with Valley quail, but mostly from a road that is cut with a few rocky and brushy canyons. Using the call makes it easier to find birds and saves a lot of boot leather. Both kinds of quail need water, but Valley Quail more so than Mountain Quail. It is a good idea to look for springs that may be hidden back in canyons. Here in Oregon, ODFW places guzzlers in quail habitat, and you can get a listing of the guzzler locations from that agency.
Chukars can be scouted using your call and a map. Chukars are easier to find in the hot part of summer around natural water sources and guzzlers. Remember, rattle snakes like this country and temperature, too. Chukars feed on cheat grass and love open country with rocks and cliffs for escape. They don’t so much hang out in the trees. Chukar country is big, so remember to bring the things you will need for a day out in the heat. Chukar can be in an area one day and seem to be gone the next. Don’t lose hope, though, they have probably just moved up or down the ridge from where you last saw them. When scouting, be sure to note guzzlers and water holes on a map or GPS. These will come in handy both for finding birds and cooling dogs in the early season.
Huns are a bonus bird here where I like to hunt in Oregon. ODFW plants big wheat fields that the huns love. These fields are situated below good chukar ground and rolling hills. I always note these areas when I see them, as they are ideal for hunting.
I don’t scout for pheasants much on public land, but I do know that the best areas locally for public hunting are the refuges and wildlife areas. These are easy to obtain information on from the comfort of your computer desk. I hope these ideas help you to become a more successful public land hunter. Good luck.
Article By Professional Dog Breeder Ed Hall
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