Upland hunting road trips can be an amazing experience.
Look, I understand. You’ve seen countless social media posts about how productive this corner of the state is. Your news feed is stacked with photos and stories of covey after covey that hold tight for dogs with any suggestion of point drive. In reality, the vast majority of these photos were taken by local dedicated bird hunters with dogs that have a Ph.D. in the habits and terrain of their local quarry. Or are at least veteran road trip hunters who have already been there and hunted that. The tailgate shot on social media is just the sum of hundreds of hours and hundreds of miles.
But alas, you do not have the time to invest in gathering this amount of on-the-ground information. It’s been my experience that left to its own devices, an upland road trip can quickly leave a beginner flustered, unable to identify proper cover, and driving in circles looking for “the field of dreams” where birds flush from the cornucopia as you drive bye, cackling, “Come hunt here!”
As I have yet to have this happen, here are a few ideas to help avoid the road trip traps that I have found myself in over the years.
Leave any notions or expectations of bird numbers behind.
I would suspect this is fairly obvious. There are countless variables that will affect the number of birds harvested, or even coveys flushed. I find it better for myself to set goals more attainable. Like moving one covey of my targeted game bird species for the day. If we find more, it’s a bonus! If we connect and shoot a bird, then it’s also a bonus!
More dog running, less road driving.
This is a major pitfall for me. The simple fact is the longer you can chase dogs on the ground, the more birds you will find. Again this seems obvious, but you might be surprised at how easy it is to convince yourself that if you just head to that next spot, birds will surely be found in better numbers. Really, if you did homework, it’s likely that there are birds in the field you are hunting now. However, if you are thorough and aren’t finding what you’re looking for, by all means head to greener pastures.
With the advent of social media, these days it’s not out of the question to find a local who’s looking to make a road trip to your area of the country. They could be willing to trade information about places to hunt, or at least types of habitat to keep an eye out for. With some tact a hunter can usually end up with at least a place to start and perhaps a new hunting buddy.
P.S. Don’t be the guy that hops on his favorite Facebook upland page and asks “Headed to S.D. for a rooster road trip! Anyone with a public land place to kill stacks!?” This is how you get blackballed in the upland community.
If possible, make time to check out something other than the birds.
If time affords, it can be nice to give yourself and your dogs a break. I myself love history and will often read or listen to books that pertain to the area that I plan on hunting. This can lead to an afternoon trip to a battlefield, or maybe a cavern with ancient petroglyphs. If there is any possibility for a run-in with a trout, you will probably find me in a river with a fly rod at some point. The idea is to enjoy your trip, and sometimes a short break to look around will help enhance your upland vacation.
Enjoy your time with the community.
The vast majority of folks, beginners and veterans, will be making these trips with a partner or even a party. Whether it’s a fellow bird hunter that you’ve just met a few weeks ago or your family, these hunts can be a great way to cultivate a relationship. I, for one, have met and made trips with several people who are now lifelong friends, thanks to the uplands. There are also a few of us who are lucky enough to enjoy the company of our significant other while chasing dogs and birds.
These are special times not often afforded by a society built around jobs and money; they are far and few between. Those moments are valuable, with an intrinsic kind of value. Guard them against the stress of success or the pressure to get that photo that will bring the most likes. I know that I’m guilty.
Adam Grinstead is a 3rd generation bird hunter born and raised in Georgia. He recently moved to Idaho where he love to follow his American brittany across public lands of the West