Woodcock hunting enthrals many hunters, whether they are young or old, experienced or not. For good reason, this specific hunting experience is one of the only ones that provides such a high level of excitement, palpitations, and emotion. Let's take a closer look at this captivating form of hunting.
Woodcock hunting is especially common between October and February following the seasonal movements of this bird. In fact, as a rule, Scolopax Rusticola - the scientific name for the woodcock - begins to travel from the eastern countries of Russia, Poland, Hungary, Latvia and Estonia to our country as autumn begins to set in. The bird thus follows a geographical axis that leads it from the North-East of Europe to the South-West. What is the reason for this? The weather conditions are milder in winter on our territories than in their native regions. However, to be lucky enough to see one without the help of a dog is almost impossible.
It is true that without a hunting dog, whether a pointer or a bushwhacker, a hunter has almost no chance of bagging this mythical bird. Especially since the woodcock is particularly fond of woods and undergrowth surrounded by tall trees. Underneath, there are ferns, brambles and, above all, fresh humus with its favourite food: earthworms. With its long, slender beak, the golden bird is always on the lookout for earthworms.
To hope to catch it, the dog and its master must be in perfect harmony. Likewise, when the dog stops, it must show unfailing patience, especially until its master spots it and comes to its side. Obviously, such complicity and trust can only be acquired after several outings and by dint of hard work. Many breeds of dogs are considered to be woodcock dogs: brittany spaniel, pointer, setter, and many others. we will not go into detail here.
Woodcock are hunted from the general start of the hunting season until the end on approximately 20 February, according to the departmental regulations in force. However, it must be said that the woodcock hunting season really gets underway once the first birds are seen, usually in mid to late October.
Woodcock hunting is subject to a maximum authorised take of 30 birds per year per hunter in France. This is referred to as the PMA. From now on, woodcock hunters can: either continue to receive their hunting logbook, or they can carry out their recording on the mobile application ChassAdapt. It should be noted that this application was designed for hunters so that they can record their takes in real time on their smartphones, follow the national quotas, and have access to their hunting history. Note, however, that in this article we will not enter into any debate "between" one or the other. Each is free to make their own choices.
In any case, the hunting logbook is now widespread in France, since the ministerial decree of 31 May 2011. However, there remain variations from one county (département) to another, particularly with regard to the authorised hunting days and the number of woodcocks that can be taken per day and per week. For this, we invite you to refer to the regulations of your county.
With the logbook, each woodcock taken must be marked with a ring provided in the logbook. At the end of the season, it is compulsory to return the logbook to the federation that issued it, otherwise you will not be able to hunt woodcock the following year.
In keeping with a classic hunting method, the dog should be equipped with a bell or rattle on its neck. This will enable the woodcock hunter to locate it more easily in the dense undergrowth, where the hunter's faithful companion will duck into as soon as it smells the woodcock's scent.
Out of the hunter's field of vision, the dog's position can thus be effectively indicated. Indeed, once the animal is at a standstill behind a woodcock, the bells will no longer jingle regularly but only sporadically according to the dog's stationary movements. This will alert the hunter to the opportunity to make a strike. Apart from the bell, you can also choose to equip your dog with an electronic training and tracking collar. Thanks to the different frequencies of its beeps, this will allow you to know exactly whether or not the dog is stationary so that you can get to it quickly. Note: these beepers enable tracking dogs by ear in undergrowth or other concealed areas.
Woodcock hunting is different everywhere you go, from Brittany to Landes, from countryside thickets to the rugged slopes of the Alps. The hunters, their dogs, and their understanding of their environment all differ from one place to the next. But all Scolopax followers have one thing in common: the need for clothing that stands up against vegetation and isolated areas, as well as to tangles of branches that make clearing paths difficult.
The woodcock hunter will therefore require clothing that is resistant, breathable, lightweight, and waterproof. This applies because one often has to cross and negotiate obstacles in conditions that are sometimes extremely inhospitable. The same applies to trousers: the woodland hunter needs resistance and reinforcements on the areas most exposed to aggressive and thorny vegetation. In fact, it is not uncommon to meet hunters who prefer to wear chaps over their hunting trousers! Does this apply to you?
Finally, when it comes to footwear, depending on the region and the weather, choose lightweight, comfortable, and resistant boots or waterproof shoes with gaiters. Don't forget that you will usually be walking about ten kilometres or more behind your dogs when woodcock hunting.
A wide range of weapons can be used to hunt for woodcock. They need to be short enough to enable a very fast reaction. Then again, "all tastes are different". As for cartridges, small pellets are recommended and preferred by woodcock hunters. It is mainly necessary to use fibre wadding pellet ammunition, lead no. 8, 9, or 8/10, or even dispersing cartridges if you shoot at short distance. Here again, almost every hunter has a strong opinion on the question, so make your own mind up as you go out. Once you have decided on your "cartridge casing", don't change it ;-)
Solognac woodcock hunting kit