There are a lot of posers in the upland hunting community. In the interest of full disclosure, we here at MOF are old, mean (especially when we’ve been drinking) and skeptical of everything and everyone. In other words, we assume basically everyone is a poser.
If you say you like to hunt upland birds, my line of questioning goes something like;
You have a dog? (Answer “no” and you’re out.)
What kind? (Answer anything that includes “doodle” or requires an explanation and you’re out.)
Other grounds for dismissal include; using the word “Bra” or “Bro”, wearing a flat-brim baseball cap, party hunting, using a “loader,” having someone else handle your dog, being a dill weed, walking slow, over using your whistle, wearing neon laces on boots, fanny packs, hats with propellers, riding in a jacked up 4-wheel-drive following someone else’s pointers, coiffed beards, taking selfies in the field or wearing purple.
There’s a reason I tend to hunt alone.
Posers litter the upland landscape. Just take a gander at nearly any upland product marketing material and you will almost certainly see a bearded hipster dressed like he’s headed for Sunday afternoon cocktails pointing a shotgun at a limp-tailed pheasant flying directly at the camera. I want to shout “Don’t shoot the photographer,” then I realize it’s likely the photographer who has set up the shot and put himself in harm’s way. Of course, it’s unlikely he’ll be shot by the hipster, but there is a pretty good chance he’ll be kamikaze-ed by the pen-raised bird careening toward him.
And that’s the thing. Upland marketing seems to center around pheasants even though a passel of enthusiastic upland hunters are not chasing pen-reared pheasants. Instead, they choose to hunt wild birds, often on public land. They are hunting ruffed grouse in the Carolina’s or the UP, chasing chukar in Nevada or desert quail in Texas or Arizona. They hunt sharptail grouse in the northern plains of Montana or sage grouse in the sage brush sea of Wyoming. They chase blue grouse on high ridges of Colorado or Utah. They might even scratch down an old rooster every once in a while in a few of those places. Some of them hunt pheasants in the Dakotas or Kansas, but the ones who hunt passionately are usually hunting wild birds, often on publicly accessible tracts.
Follow dogs across enough forest and prairie and you learn to notice things. Hunters can tell by the wag of their spaniel’s tail or the way a setter carries herself when birds are close. They learn to veer towards a falcon holding high above the cholla or to walk out of their way to swing past an abandoned farm implement. They notice how a pheasant will run like hell in short grass but hold up before he crosses a low spot or how huns will flush in a circle and after a few flushes, eventually lead you back where you found them. Upland hunting is a pursuit of subtleties and when you’ve see enough flushes, you know a setup when you see one.
Sadly, many of the companies selling guns and boots and vests are pretty far removed from the realities of upland hunting. There are some exceptions like Wingworks and Russell and Quilomene and Kenetrek and Gundog Supply. Big companies who understand upland hunting are rare, but one that stands out in a good way is Orvis, whose catalogues often feature the birds and places people actually hunt. I think that’s mostly because their CEO, Perk Perkins, and their Vice Chairman, Dave Perkins, are serious outdoorsmen and upland hunters. And damn good fly fishermen as well. And while I’m not typically prone to endorsements, Orvis gives 5 percent of company profits to conservation and I think that’s a pretty big deal.
Orvis recently posted this video about upland hunting. It’s a pretty accurate assessment of what most of us at MOF do and how we feel about upland hunting.
Perk, Dave, if you’re reading, you’re in.