Bird hunting is a special form of hunting that challenges men and women in ways that game hunting does not always do. Specializing in the hunting of upland birds requires skills as a marksman for ground and air shots.
While any type of wildlife is difficult to capture or kill, avian are by far the most elusive and capture-resistant among them. Birds have the ability to take flight and be out of reach and eyesight within seconds in ways that a deer or elk cannot. With greater escape options, smaller body targets, and fleeing personalities, one of the greatest challenges in the wild is successfully hunting an avian. It takes precision, patience, skill, and knowledge to utilize dogs or hunt solo with success.
In the following paragraphs, we have compiled five of the most difficult birds to hunt in the wild based on difficulty level and skills needed to succeed.
Ruffed Grouse are well-known as formidable challenges that bring hunters into the woods each fall. Unlike with most game and some birds, hunters must hunt in the location in which the bird lives. Even more unlike big game, you cannot entice or draw the grouse to a certain area. This leaves the ruffed grouse determining the rules of engagement. It is this difference that makes the ruffed grouse one of the most challenging birds to hunt.
To hunt a grouse, the hunter must be able to recognize signs in the habitat that lend the possibility that grouse live there. Many hunters use “grouse dogs” to hunt this avian, but this dog must be released in an active area where these grouse live, for this method to be effective.
Ruffed grouse is so difficult to hunt because finding them is half the challenge; the other half is working your way through the dense brush and trees, keeping your footing, staying alert, allowing yourself the room to maneuver your shotgun, and being able to get off a shot once you see your prey. This multi-tasking is the challenge bird hunters seek out—but it is incredibly difficult to do, much less do well. This is what makes ruffed grouse a must-have on this list of the most difficult birds to hunt.
Chukars present one of the great challenges to upland hunters everywhere. These avian love the rugged and remote mountains and in high, arid country, and due to their small body size, the vast wilderness is the best place for them to survive in a battle against man.
Not only are Chukar difficult to hunt because they are birds, but they surprise many novice bird hunters because they can run like a roadrunner. These sprinting birds have excellent awareness of their surroundings and have keen eyes.
For a human to get the jump on a Chukar is difficult—as great sprinters and the color of ash-gray, a bit of cream, and black, they are not the most vibrant creatures for a hunter to spot—this is why this beautiful gamebird has become a favorite challenge of upland hunters for hundreds of years. While these birds are native to Eurasia, over the years they have been placed in many countries and continents, including North America.
To get a leg up on the Chukar, a hunter must know where they flock to and how they evade hunters, in order to prepare accordingly. Your best bet at finding a Chukar is in arid, high country where sagebrush, cheat grass, and rocks are common. Edges of rock falls, outcroppings, and rimrock are particularly favored spots. They use these areas as protection against predators and the elements. Scouting out these locations during your pre-hunt will be important to locating areas where you can find these birds for a better opportunity.
In preparing your hunt, it is important to know the evasive qualities of the Chukar. This bird has excellent eyes and is nearly always on alert. While they sprint extremely quickly on foot, they always sprint uphill. As a hunter, you can use this knowledge to your advantage in prepping your hunting spot.
Another reason the Chukar is so difficult for many hunters to conquer is due to their preference to high mountainous areas—these birds are a gravitational hunting challenge, as they can live up to 12,000 feet above sea level.
Pheasant hunting can be a challenge of strategy. Unlike some game birds, these avian use the skies to evade after they have no other options. One tip for hunters is to learn how to drive pheasants. By taking a certain position, you can walk zig-zag through cover and brush and get the pheasant to retreat uphill.
Once cover ends uphill, the pheasant will take flight—this is where you as a hunter, need to be stationed and ready to take your shot. Pheasant hunting typically requires help from a second hunter and sometimes even a hunting dog. By using more than one hunter, you can direct these birds to your desired location for the perfect ambush once they take flight.
It is not advisable to push pheasants downhill, however, they take off flying before the hunter can follow and get a shot—downhill driving is uncontrolled driving as far as pheasant hunting is concerned. Also, high pheasants with their wings set can fly extremely high and cause illusions. While they may look like they are flying straight, they are dropping in at a 45-degree angle.
This is what makes hunting pheasant so challenging to hunters—their ground and airborne evasive maneuvers make this challenge one of the greats for bird hunters.
Ptarmigan are some of the most intriguing birds to hunt, which is why they are often called the Ultimate Alaskan Upland Challenge. Found in Alaska, these birds are one of the most difficult avian to hunt in part because of the rare locations they inhabit, as well as the difficulty in conquering them.
In the Kenai Mountains, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, and across the Alaska Range, Willow and Rock Ptarmigan can be found in plenty. Whitetail Ptarmigan, however, are much more difficult to find as they inhabit difficult terrain. These birds are hunted by serious collectors who are willing to travel and work hard to collect and harvest them.
To hunt Willow and Rock Ptarmigan, you can use your shotgun solo, or hunt with the help of a good hunting dog. The difficulty level of hunting these birds are in part due to the rough terrain of the Alaskan tundra and mountain ranges in which the hunter must traverse, manipulate, and utilize to their advantage. With temperatures between 10 and 40 degrees and snow as a large factor, hunters must be ready to work hard physically and mentally.
Willow Ptarmigan are nearly pure white in winter, so you must have a keen eye to spot one. Rock Ptarmigan are even smaller than the Willows and are also white, but with black tails tipped with more white.
If you are a hunter who is willing to make the trek to the Alaskan wilderness in order to catch yourself generous bags of Ptarmigan, then you must master the elements in order to win half the battle.
Often called the “Prince of Game Birds” and historically, “Gentleman Bob,” the Bobwhite Quail is well-known as one of the favorite American game birds. Quail hunting is favored by those who have sharp shooting skills and hunters who love the challenging process.
The Quail holds a respected place in the hearts of hunters everywhere in the nation. Bobwhite Quail are hunted in the mid-Atlantic coastal states all the way to the Southern Great Plains and South to Florida. The best Bobwhite hunting can arguably be found in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Alabama; however, due to their popularity, different species of Quail now be found in most states.
The hunting of this bird is more akin to a ritual now for most hunters. The challenge of the hunt has found itself to be among the most popular. Bobwhites are small birds between 8 and 10 ½ inches tall. They thrive in native woods, grasslands, and on the edges of croplands. For shelter, they need brushy fence lines, and for escape cover and nesting they require patchy or shrubby vegetation.
Luckily for hunters, Bobwhite Quail are social birds and live in groups of 8 to over two dozen. However, within their convey, they have instinctive protective strategies that hunters must overcome. Quails spend most time on the ground with their group for protection, and when they sense danger, the group stops moving as one. This defensive posture makes them difficult to see.
When the danger (which could be you, as the hunter) does not disappear, they will flush in sudden unison and make it difficult to focus well on any one bird enough to shoot successfully. During the winter, the groups of Bobwhite can be found close to their food sources, which can make it easier for hunters to seek out potential hunting grounds.
When the hunt begins, it is best to hunt with two or three individuals. That way when a group (convey) has been flushed, another hunter can determine where they have gone. A hunting dog is an excellent addition to the Quail hunt. German shorthaired pointers and Brittanies are in particular, extremely popular for Quail hunting.
No matter how you hunt Bobwhite, this type of bird hunt requires pre-scouting to determine possible avenues of escape for the Quail, and experience in flushing birds out. These birds are savvy on land and air, and to successfully flush them out from the brush and isolate one amongst a fluttering group in the air, you must have a keen eye and a plan.