The unlikely evolution of the Timberdoodle
Evolution has its way with things both obvious and unusual. The American Woodcock, often called the Timberdoodle, just happens to be one of those strange happenings in the world of Mother Nature. A small and clumsy looking bird that can rise to lightening speeds in seconds, with a distinct whistle coming from their wings that almost any upland hunter reacts to.
That statement is curious though, “any upland hunter.” It is a statement we would not think of when someone says migratory bird.
We think ducks and geese in the great flyways of North America with duck blinds, decoys, and calling. All things that have no place in the strange world of the migratory Timberdoodle. An American classic is what the waterfowl world is, but without the Timberdoodle.
The Timberdoodle has a different culture. One in grouse camps of the north and even gumbo of the south. A world of far more pointers, and far less retrievers. A very basic sport that takes little gear and more often than not, a guess of where they are today and if they are gone tomorrow.
As a kid it was the first game bird I ever shot, probably the clearest memory I have as young hunter. The whistle from the cover just to my right and a fast swoop above my head. The flight pattern, symbolic to the name “Mud Bat”. I did what my father told me, shot from the hip because it happened so fast. Sure enough that bird folded right on the trail in front of me, a moment of awe to someone just a few steps into the path of being a woodsman.
Those days have since changed. No more number 4’s in a 12 gauge Remington 870 pump, the north wood’s all around common gun of choice. Now it is wide open chokes from an over and under 20 gauge, with the shortest barrels I can find. Number 8’s are cheating according to my father but that 3 bird limit always puts a smile on my face.
This past year was a busy one and my father and I had one day together to be just that, father and son. We went to cover that I had seen a fair amount of American Woodcock in just weeks before, but this day had it in it to be special.
Without us ever knowing, we were walking into a massive overnight migration. Not 100 yards into the cover it became quickly obvious that we had struck gold. Our guns roared, the excitement was fast paced, and unending, and most important of all, it was a flood of smiles. Our only focus was on that very moment. A feeling we all have chased from our youths, a time of simple worries of a child and bold adventure always over the horizon.
My shooting was subpar that day but that only added to the experience. I did not want the day to end and as my box of shells became empty both my father and I put our three birds on the ground. Moments like these are part of this unlikely species reputation. It is the allure of the Timberdoodle.
Project Upland is an editorial initiative to capture the cultures and traditions of upland bird hunting. We seek to inspire a future generation of upland bird hunters to understand the essence of hunting traditions and the critical cause for conservation.