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General Upland bird tips


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This hunting information is provided as advice only.  It is the duty of the hunter to ensure that he or she is complying with all current laws and regulations.

Washington Pictures taken by HuntWashingtonState staff

  • First rule!  Know what you are shooting at !!!  There is no excuse for accidentally shooting something you did not intend to. HWS staff
  • Always have a pre-hunt discussion about safety.  Discuss shooting lanes, muzzle control, dog safety, and emergency contingencies.  Be frank and honest, it is serious business and could mean the difference between life and death.  If you feel uncomfortable discussing these issues with your hunting partners, perhaps you shouldn’t be hunting with them.
  • If you can, hunt into the wind, especially if you have a dog.  A dog will naturally hunt this way and when a bird flushes, the bird will fly away from you and into the wind, thus slowing his departure from you.  For really windy days, the birds can almost just hang there in mid air.
  • Hunt ditches, hedge rows, fence lines and anywhere else there is cover 12” or higher.  This cover is where upland birds hang out.  It is rare to see birds out in the open for any significant amount of time.  They need cover to feel safe.
  • If possible, hunt from bottom up.  Place another hunter on the other side of the brush or hedge row and stay parallel to each other to catch birds busting out from either side.
  • Upland birds will try to run before they feel the need to fly.  When walking up a hedge row or draw that ends, watch for birds filing out of the top and perhaps place a hunter there to catch them as they come out.   Remember that safety is always first!
  • Walk slowly when hunting upland birds.  Being tired and out of breath or just simply brush busting will never get you into many birds.
  • NEVER hunt standing crop fields.  This is the number one way for a land owner to disinvite you to any future hunting opportunities.  Resist this urge at all costs.  Trampling a field damages crops and will generally irritate the landowner to no end as trampled crops takes money out of their pocket.  Cut fields are OK and will be easier to hunt anyway.
  • Get your dog an orange neoprene vest.  It will keep him warmer, more buoyant, and much easier to see in case he is on point somewhere.
  • Check your pup for ticks after every hunt.  Eastern Washington has tons of ticks. (Bob K. Spokane)
  • When hunting through open country, hunt zig zag through the patches of underbrush and cover areas.  This will flush birds more than simply walking between these patches. (Michael R, Moses Lake)
  • CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) is the number one program in Washington which has enhanced and allowed upland bird populations to remain.  Keep This Program Alive!
  • We are all hunters, but not all of us use guns. Or bows. Unknown to most people, there are hundreds of people in Washington practicing the ancient sport and art of falconry. The Washington Falconer's Association has a website at if you would like to check it out. Admittedly, this is a relatively small audience compared to the many, many deer hunters out there, for example, but it's fascinating and unusual enough that I thought you might want to add it to your site. 
    I know it sounds very 13th century, but falconers are still out there, and its very beneficial for us to have other hunters know this. Last thing anyone wants is someone's raptor shot by accident. Please don't hesitate to ask any questions you may have. It's my job and pleasure to answer them.



  • First rule!  Know what you are shooting at !!!  There is no excuse for accidentally shooting something you did not intend to. HWS staff
  • The most important sense that a pheasant has is its hearing.  Talking loudly or yelling at your dog will easily spook these birds.
  • Pheasants will hold tighter with snow on the ground.  It is even possible to accidentally step on them when the temperature is low enough and the snow is deep enough.
  • Rain will hold pheasants better than dry sunny days.  Look for them under trees, bushes, and anywhere they can get cover.
  • Hunt the cattails along the waterways.  These are prime hiding areas for Pheasant.
  • When hunting heavily used pheasant release sites or in areas with lots of access and a big parking lot... Come into the area from a completely different direction than the typical hunter.  Most of the hunted birds have already patterned the hunter and have escape routes planned accordingly.  Catch the birds on the back end of their escape route.  (remember to wear hunter orange) (Mike T, Colfax)
  • According to the WDFW, "the primary factor for the decline in pheasant populations is loss of habitat due to development and agricultural practices.  In areas where alfalfa is a major crop, the first cutting usually occurs during the peak of nesting (mid-May) and results in a heavy loss of nests and young." WDFW Game Status and Trends Report
  • "Weather conditions during the nesting season are also a significant factor that impacts the annual pheasant population.  Cold, wet conditions during the peak of hatch can result in very high mortality of young pheasants." WDFW Game Status and Trends Report
  • In 2007, the WDFW secured more than 423,000 acres of "feel free to hunt" lands just in Region 1 alone.
  • Hunt the fringes and tall stands.  Most birds stick to the edges of fields to pop in and out of cover.



  • First rule!  Know what you are shooting at !!!  There is no excuse for accidentally shooting something you did not intend to. HWS staff
  • Get in shape!  Chuckar hunting is the most difficult of all upland bird hunting. They live in the big open draws of the big Eastside rivers.  These draws range from as little as 500 feet in elevation to thousands of feet.  You will be going up and down these draws all day.
  • Even though it sounds silly, old timers along the Snake River used to get Black balloons filled with helium.  They’d attach them to 50 foot strings and fasten them to the back of their belts.  They’d walk up and down the draws with these balloons.  Chuckar would think that they were birds of prey and hold much tighter.
  • Chuckar are not native to Washington State.  They were imported from India in the late 1800s as a game bird from the Himalayas.
  • Chuckar will congregate around springs and watering holes.  Approach these areas prepared to get some shooting.
  • Chuckar tend to not like snow cover.  Hunt the open faces of slopes and hunt the snow line.
  • Chuckar have a distinctive call.  Listen for them and then hunt in their direction.  If you are having a slow day and do not hear Chuckar, the chances are that the area you are hunting isn’t holding these birds.  Some hunters intentionally wait a few minutes before heading up a draw to listen for birds.  They will hunt the draws where the birds are vocal.
  • Bring lots of water with you on Chuckar hunts.  There is generally no where to get water and you will sweat profusely from all of the climbing you will do.
  • Wear sturdy above the ankle boots, the areas Chuckar inhabit is rough. 
  • Place close attention for rattlesnakes in Chuckar territory.  Be careful where you step and where you put your hand.  Chances are you will be quite a bit away from your vehicle and a hospital.
  • Chuckars can be found coveyed up on benches and saddles in their steep territory.  These benches provide level ground for Chuckars to congregate around.
  • It will be common to see flushed Chuckars flying off into oblivion.  Don’t worry about chasing after them.  You may get a chance at them when coming back down hill.
  • A 20 gauge shotgun is widely used for Chuckar mainly because of its lightness.  Just remember that your effective range will be shorter than a 12 gauge’s.
  • If you are hunting in the Yakima area and the rivers and creeks have water in them, look for the birds near the water source.  They like to covey up on the gravel bars.  It is not uncommon to float the Yakima and hunt the banks.
  • If a Chuckar flushes and goes low over the ridge, go after it.  Chances are he has landed just on the other side of the ridgeline.
  • Cheatgrass is a staple of the chukar diet in spring and fall (WDFW Game Status and Trends Report)
  • Areas to hunt are:
    • Snake River breaks
    • Palisades area around Wenatchee
    • Columbia River breaks. (Priest Rapids)
    • Grand Rhonde breaks
    • Yakima area (Ahtanum)
    • Lower Palouse river


Hungarian Partridge (Huns)

  • Huns generally share the same habitat as quail and pheasant.
  • Huns flock up like quail.  Resist the urge to “covey shoot”  Pick single birds and your success will increase.
  • Huns are generally about twice the size of quail, they are pretty easy to tell apart from quail.



  • First rule!  Know what you are shooting at !!!  There is no excuse for accidentally shooting something you did not intend to. HWS staff
  • Highest quail densities are associated with brushy riparian habitat.
  • The invasive Russian olives trees tend to be favorable for coveys of quail.
  • Quail can be found all over eastern Washington.  There are very few areas where they aren't found... If you find public access with riparian zones, chances are you can get into coveys of quail.
  • Quail coveys can be spread out.  After you've shot your three shells, quickly chamber three more.  Chances are there are more birds birds ready to fly out.
  • Quail Forever Washington Chapter Columbia Basin Quail Forever - Kennewick, WA
  • Supposedly, Mountain Quail actually live in pockets in SE Washington as well. The general season for Mountain quail (Oreortyx pictus) in Western Washington ran from 2 October through 30 November with a daily bag limit of 2 and a possession limit of 4.  They aren't very common and really only found by chance.  This can also be confirmed by studying the harvest statistics.  It is my belief that the harvest statistics may be a bit exaggerated due to harvest algorithms used by biologists and bad self-reporting by hunters.   Very few are harvested during a hunting season.  On occasion you will see them, but very few hunters selectively hunt them as their populations appear to be very random.  You will see them from time to time when big game hunting or hiking. It would be my opinion that a hunter would spend a lot of time looking for them and hope to get a shot maybe a couple of times in a weekend.  It is also very important to keep in mind the terrain they live in is conducive to being hidden or easy escape. (Jeff L, Seattle)


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