I like most of you, will kick off the fall wingshooting season tomorrow with my home state’s dove opener, and then I’m looking forward to an upcoming bird hunting trip to Nebraska and Montana. While I haven’t been on an out-of-state big-game hunting trip in (literally) years, I do a fair amount of bird hunting each year outside my home state, and I am not alone. In fact, most of my bird-hunting friends plan multiple out-of-state hunting trips every year.
This year, with local bird numbers down, it seems everyone I know is planning at least one trip to Montana or the Dakotas, and many local quail hunters have become quite fond of Idaho’s fantastic and somewhat unheralded bird hunting. Which is why a news item in today’s Field Notes about declining non-resident hunter numbers in the states of Idaho and Montana, along with another news item about an upswing in pheasant brood counts in South Dakota got me to wondering: are bird hunters more willing and more reliable out-of-state travelers than big-game hunters? Personally, I’m inclined to think so, and here are my off-the-cuff, poorly though-out reasons why.
* Most bird hunters own dogs, and have an extremely vested and keen interest in seeing those dogs get on birds. Dogs are a large and time-consuming year-round commitment/obsession, and I don’t know a single bird hunter who isn’t willing to travel to make that happen. A rifle is just a rifle. If you can’t hunt that year, well, just throw the damn thing back in the gun cabinet. You can’t do that with a dog.
* Out-of-state bird hunting is so much, for lack of a better term, easier logistically, than big-game hunting. For the most part there are no lotteries or draws, no “must hunt with a guide” requirements (except on some Native American reservations) and (at least compared to most big-game regs) no Byzantine set of rules, regulations, restrictions and caveats to contend with. You simply buy an over-the-counter license/stamp/tag, make sure you know the regs and then go hunting.
* Bird hunting, even out-of-state bird hunting, is a whole lot cheaper than big-game hunting. A non-resident general hunting license in Kansas, where I do the majority of my out-of-state hunting, costs $72.50. In Nebraska and Montana, where I’ll be in a few weeks, it’s $81 and $110.
* Bird hunting is, generally, depending on when and where you go, much less crowded and lasts much longer than most states’ big-game seasons. This gives the traveling hunter much greater flexibility in when they choose to go.
* Although bird hunting is never a sure thing, even in down years you’ll probably get your dogs into birds, and maybe even shoot a few, as opposed to dropping three or four grand on a big-game hunt, sitting in a blind for a week and seeing nothing but boredom-induced visions of how badly this “fun” is draining your bank account.
* Bird hunting is much more flexible for the non-resident hunter than big-game hunting. Often, if you’re hunting big game you are legally or logistically tied to one area. Bird hunters, however, are more nomadic. If we’re not finding birds, we’ll simply pack up and move somewhere else. It’s a great way to explore new country.
Agree? Disagree? Any other ways or reasons why you think (or don’t think) non-resident upland bird hunters are more inclined to travel, even in bad years, than big-game hunters? And I need to add, since this is a gundogs blog, that my generalizations about bird hunters apply mostly to gundog-owning bird hunters. It’s just my opinon, but I think dogless bird hunters are much less motivated to travel than those of us who own dogs. In my mind, our dogs are the catalyst for everything we do. But what about you? Are you more inclined to take an out-of-state bird hunting trip or a big-game hunt? Do you have any of either planned this season?