What is woodcock hunting?

Hunting for woodcock without an experienced hunting dog is almost impossible. What equipment does your companion need? What should it do in the field? How to create symbiosis between a dog and its master

What is woodcock hunting?

What is woodcock hunting?

Between November and February, woodcock hunting follows the bird's migratory calendar in the country.

Starting in November, the scolopax, the woodcock's scientific name, follows a migratory route from noth-west Europe to the south-west. The highly intuitive woodcock is a species that is very difficult to find.

In fact, without an experienced hunting dog, hunters stand practically no chance of flushing out this mythical bird, especially since the woodcock is particularly fond of woods and undergrowth surrounded by large trees, such as birch, chestnut or alder, under which ferns and brambles grow profusely, alongside the fresh humus that is home to its favourite food, the earthworm, for which the woodcock searches with its long and thin beak all winter long.

To flush a woodcock from its favourite habitat, the setter and its master must work in perfect symbiosis. The dog must position itself relative to its master and the game, point to the game and show infinite patience to avoid harming the game that it has just flushed out. And it must stay this way until its master can take careful aim at the game.

This degree of complicity and trust can only be reached after a number of hunting sorties together. And only a few of the breeds of hunting dogs can really be considered as woodcock dogs.

One of them is the Brittany Spaniel which has exceptional qualities. Doubtless due in part to the influence of its origins in Brittany, which is renowned for its high numbers of woodcock. Pointers and Setters also make good woodcock dogs.

Brittany Spaniel woodcock hunting

Maximum quotas

Woodcock is hunted from the start of the open season until around 20 February, depending on the local regulations.

Woodcock hunting is limited to a maximum quota of 30 birds per hunter per year. This quota has applied throughout France since the ministerial order of 31 May 2011. However, variants exist from one region to another, depending on the local authority's interpretation of the number of birds bagged by day and by week.

Example: three a week in Brittany, and six a week and two per day in other regions.

Every woodcock that is shot must be marked with a ring supplied with the quota log book. At the end of the season, the quota log book must returned to the local hunting association, or the hunter will be banned from hunting in the next season.

Equipment for dogs

In one traditional hunting method, a bell is tied around the dog's neck, so that its master can find it more easily in the thick vegetation of the undergrowth, into which his faithful companion will venture as soon as it has detected a woodcock.

It's a good idea to use an open bell that prevents brambles from becoming stuck in the slots in closed models and stopping the bell from ringing.

In this way, the dog can easily indicate where it is, even when it is out of its master's field of vision. Once the dog has flushed the woodcock out of its hiding place and stops moving, the bell will ring sporadically, rather than regularly, depending on the dog's movements when at a standstill. This will let the hunter know that there is a chance that the bird will take flight.

You may prefer to use an electronic bell with a beep whose frequency tells you whether the dog is at a standstill or not, in order to quickly join it and take aim at the game.

Dog equipment for woodcock hunting
Woodcock hunter's equipment

Hunter's equipment

Woodcock hunters need sturdy, breathable and lightweight clothes, because they have to cross numerous obstacles in sometimes very inhospitable conditions.

The primary function of the clothing for this type of hunting is not necessarily waterproofing, but, for the jacket in particular, the lightness offered, for example, by a softshell.

Woodcock hunters need strong trousers with reinforcements and waterproofing (or not, depending on the region and the climate). Otherwise, you can always wear trousers with over-trousers. For your footwear, and depending on the region and the weather, prefer lightweight boots or waterproof shoes with gaiters.

A wide range of weapons can be used to hunt for woodcock. But they must be relatively short to allow for a very quick reaction.

You must never shoot from more than 20m to avoid injuring the game. Cartridges with small, low-gram lead shot are recommended. If you shoot from very short distances, prefer cartridges with a wide spread.

Thanks to our ambassador and woodcock hunting enthusiast David, for co-writing this article:

What is woodcock hunting?