Bird Dogs Afield host Paul Fuller is the gun dog columnist for Northwoods Sporting Journal. The Journal has granted permission to re-print Paul’s articles. Thank you Northwoods Sporting Journal.

Northwoods Sporting Journal

Bird Difficulty

Many of my columns are the result of an email or text message from a fellow hunter. Recently, I was asked which upland birds are the hardest to hunt and which are the easiest to hunt. The question didn’t delineate from difficult for the dog or difficult for the shooter. So, I’ll lump it all together with comments about both. I’m only going to include species I’ve either hunted or have friends that have hunted and provided me with details. Here we go.

Personally, the most difficult bird I’ve hunted is the ruffed grouse. And, it’s a very difficult bird for the pointing dog. The ruffed grouse would rather run than flush. An outstanding pointing dog will pin many of their birds they encounter which will provide the hunter with a flush and shot. However, the bird will run on most dogs. That means a flush far ahead of the dog and no shot. If the hunter is lucky to be close to the bird, the bird will almost always flush with a tree or heavy cover between the shooter and the bird. For both the dog and the hunter, and using fair chase, the ruffed grouse is the hardest bird to hunt.

Although I’ve never hunted chukar, the tales I’ve heard from friends force me to put this bird high on the list. First, the terrain is usually meant more for mountain goats than human beings. A misplaced step can easily end up with a medical emergency. The chukar has good pointing scent, however, getting to your on-point dog could be a problem. For difficulty, hunting chukar is a close second to the ruffed grouse.

My next bird in terms of hunting difficult would be the Hungarian partridge. Hunting the prairies requires a great deal of stamina for both the hunter and the dog. You will often walk miles to find birds. Also, in the prairies, your dog covers about four times the distance that you do. A Hun covey won’t tolerate a dog getting too close. If your dog does pin a covey, just an eyelid blink by your dog and the covey will be airborne. A rookie Hun hunter will tend to flock shoot with their first covey flush. A seasoned Hun hunter will have much better success by picking one bird in the covey. And, do you think you know where the covey landed? Try following up the covey…they’re hardly ever there.

We’re slowly getting easier now. My next bird would be the sharptail grouse. As with Huns, you can walk many miles before your dog encounters scent. However, if hunted early in the season, sharptail hunting, for the dog, becomes much easier. Unless the birds have been pressured, they hold well for the point. This is one reason my wife and I head west for the September 1 opener. We love the dog work we get on sharptails. Also, in my mind, the sharptail flies slightly slower than the Hun. That makes it an easier target. Also, sharptails seldom flush as a covey. Their flush is staggered. Two birds may initially flush followed by three then followed by two more and on and on.

Okay, you’ve been wondering about the ring-necked pheasant. I grew up hunting wild ring necked pheasants. From the age of nine until I left for college. My father had English setters for pheasant and beagles for cottontail rabbits. And, our neighbor had a German shorthaired pointer. I hunted pheasants, at different times, with all these dogs. After years of hunting and killing hundreds of birds, I decided a lushing dog was the best tool for hunting the beloved ring-neck. They get the bird in the air and once in the air they’re not a hard bird to hit.

Bobwhite quail. My only experience with bobwhites was a week in Kansas hunting wild birds. They held well for the point…they get an A + for that. The covey flush is fast so the hunter needs to be fast also. A thoroughly enjoyable bird to hunt.

American woodcock. This little guy is a joy for both the pointing dog and the hunter. Yes, the bird is running more than it did 20 years ago, however; most of the time, it still holds nicely for the point. And, woodcock covers are typically found adjacent to logging roads which makes for easy access. If you hunt after most of the leaves have fallen, you’ll get a decent shot most of the time.

So, that’s my rating system for hardest to easiest upland birds to hunt. However, I love them all.

Copyright 2021 Paul Fuller

Paul and his wife Susan are co-hosts of Bird Dogs Afield TV ( Paul can be contacted at