What is Bird Hunting?

Looking to try bird hunting? You're not alone. Each fall, millions of people from Alaska to Florida head out, shotgun in hand, to hunt birds. They chase everything from Ruffed grouse and Ringneck pheasants to Bobwhite quail, starting as early as August first in the far north and running through February in the south.

Regardless of where they are or what they're hunting, these people participate in an annual ritual that's more than just a hobby or sport: It's a unique experience that's part passion, part primal and totally consuming.

On Your Wilder Side

For thousands and thousands of years, human have hunted for food. Today, most of us have lost this need (fortunately). But that doesn't mean we've lost the desire. Bird hunting rekindles this part of you. It teaches you about nature and the wild—and about the wild nature within yourself.

Bird hunting can quiet and meditative one moment and heart-thumping thrilling the next. And while success doesn't always mean killing a bird, when it does, bird hunting is profound and bittersweet. You've taken a life, and it's important to pause and honor this sacrifice.

Friends, Families and Feathers

Along with the fanning the primitive flame within you, bird hunting is also about being with best friends, whether that's your daughter, your buddy from college or the Labrador pup you brought home last spring.

It's also a great reason for families to get together, like they do across the Midwest for the opening of pheasant season. Grandfather, sons, daughters, moms, grandkids and friends—they all join together to hunt birds and take part in a celebration that's generations old.

Must-dos to Get You Going

The requirements for bird hunting seem pretty simple: a shotgun and shells, a sturdy pair of legs and a place to them. But of course, there's a lot more to it than that—especially if you're totally new to firearms and hunting. Here are three things every newbie should do to become a better prepared hunter:

  • Get smart with a hunter safety course: If you're brand new to hunting, you need to take some kind of hunter's safety course. All states offer them and most require new hunters to take one before purchasing a hunting license. Even if you've been around firearms and the outdoors all your life, one of these courses can still teach you something.
  • Make friends with a mentor: A great way to jump way ahead on the bird-hunting learning curve is to find someone to teach you the basics. See if there are any sportsman or shooting clubs near you. Conservation groups like Pheasants Forever, The Ruffed Grouse Society and Quail Unlimited may have chapters in your area, too. Members of these club and organization will most likely be willing to take you into the field and show you how things are done (and where birds can be found).
  • Find time for trigger time: While you'll learn a bit about guns in any hunter safety course, you should spend extra time familiarizing yourself with your shotgun. To do this, see if any shooting or sportsman clubs in your area offer firearms safety courses. Then try busting clays on a Five Stand or Sporting Clays course.

See You Out There

Once you've followed the three steps above, all you have left to do it get a license, check your state's seasons and regulations, and start hunting. But beware: bird hunting can be become an obsession.

So if in a few years from now you find yourself dreaming about autumn all through the spring summer and then coming up with excuses to spend more time in the field come fall, don't say you haven't been warned.

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