Timberdoodle, bog borer, brush snipe, needlenose or whatever you call him locally, the Woodcock is the most difficult to shoot with bow and arrow or any game animal.

About 11-inches in length, they weigh about six ounces. A loner by nature the Woodcock looks like a pile of leaves as they sit tight and allow the bowhunter to walk past.  Woodcock inhabit heavy cover such as wet woods, moist thickets and marshy brush.

The few hunters who actually spot them see only a flash of flight as they fly twisting through the heavy woods. It is amazing that they do not hit the tree limbs on their flight to safety.  Arrows cast after them bounce off of limbs like steel balls in the old fashioned pin ball machines.

Early hunters using shotguns decimated the populations for the market value of their flesh. The development of land for agriculture also restricted their breeding grounds.  Despite this they have returned to huntable populations throughout their range.  Their ability to search out and destroy insects and worms is beneficial to man.

Bowhunters in search of this shy, secretive and largely nocturnal have but two chances of taking one. This writer has never been able to solve the problem of getting one.  The first chance is from a blind location near a suspected breeding ground.  It is basically a matter of a chance encounter and is not a high percentage opportunity.  The second chance is to catch them on the ascendency as the little bird rises straight up when flushed.  Although they do not always do so, some woodcock will rise straight up with their long pointed bill pointed downward.  You might catch him at the peak of the rise before he disappears into the timber.

Having tried both of these patterns in the Shawnee national Forest of southern Illinois, to date they have proven unsatisfactory. Trying to spot them on the ground has proven a waste of time.  Several shots as they rise have always been snap shot and less than accurate with the arrows passing far off into the timber without cutting a feather.

Woodcock hunting with bow and arrow is a sport for the instinctive shooter. There is no time to use a sight with any degree of certainty.  If one does hot shoot in seconds he might just as well have stayed home.

Because of the fast flight of this little bird a fast shooting bow and light arrow is probably best. Due to the expense of such arrows it could prove costly too.  A three fletch provides stability without sacrificing speed.  Light arrows travel faster and feathers are more forgiving of a poor release.  A blunt tip is preferable for all small game as it provides the shock power to make a clean human kill.  Blunts also help in not getting stuck in the top of a tree, as would a sharper arrow head.

Camouflage is not an essential, as the birds tend to spot you long before you see them. Woodcock hunting is a reaction type of hunting as opposed to the more calculated type of stalking done in deer hunting.

Despite the potential number of missed shots and lost arrows, it is not necessary to have a lot of arrows on each hunting trip. The reason is the solitary nature of the bird.  One does not get a lot of shooting opportunities.  You do not find a lot of them together as with other upland birds and waterfowl.  The shooting a hunter gets is however fast and furious and it causes his heart to skip a beat in excitement.



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