There Are No Trees
above: Grouse & Woodcock Hunters Have To Deal With Very Dense Covers To Be Successful
How thrilling is it when we have a brand new woodcock cover to explore? Maybe you stumbled upon it during fishing season or while hunting mushrooms. Or maybe it is a covert you helped create with other volunteers with the same passion. From the acres of rich, moist soil grow trees,alders, hawthorns, birch and poplar. Every so often they are dotted by the occasional old bull pine. It’s a little slice of heaven.
And when the season finally arrives it is no surprise how quickly your dog gets birdy and locks up on point. Instinctively you look for an opening in the dense cover that will allow for a clear shot at the quick flying timberdoole. Alas, the pine got in the way so much so that it soaked up your entire shot pattern. What happened to the ‘doodle? It flew away unscathed. Those adjectives you used to describe the new covert earlier are replaced with far more colorful expletives.
Woodcock hunters are keenly aware of the trees and obstacles that comprise ideal coverts. The style of shooting that accompanies thick covert has evolved into a method of poke and hope. A quick snapshot is taken when the blurr presents itself in that small narrow lane on which the shooter is focused. This type of shooting is a low percentage game of luck. When hunting woodcock we need all the help we can get, and a preferable method is called “there are no trees”.
We shooters have two types of vision. One type is a clear, sharp and intensely focused view, and it represents a small percentage of what we see. Such focus is what we use to see nothing but the bird, or is it? If our view is incredibly focused then we are likely to fall into the poke and hope method of shooting. Luck is what we have when the clear picture of open cover with the bird in the middle. A snap shot delivered at that time drops the bird.
Our second type of vision is a peripheral and subconscious awareness. Our view in this realm is similar to the way you keep track of the double yellow line in the center of the road when driving. We have an awareness of the line but our focus is on the car ahead of us.
Subconscious vision informs us of a good opportunity while we maintain a strong focus on the bird. Since we’re concentrating on the target we tune out the dese cover, a fact that allows us to increase our focus on the bird.
This technique is easily used when practicing on sporting clays or skeet targets in the wide open. The technique used begins when the lead hand, which is always the forehand, points and follows the clay targets’ flight line. As your forehand moves forward the rear gun mount hand follows suit and begins sliding the gun to the cheek. When the stock touches your cheek you’ll squeeze the trigger win or lose. There will be times that the timing of firing the gun and the woodcock going behind the tree are unfortunately perfect. But what will surprise you is how consistently your lab brings back a dead woodcock. The fact that the muzzles are drawing the birds flight path when fired and that your shot pattern is stringing out slightly, allows the bird to run into the tail end of the string.
A great way to prepare for the distractions of thick cover hunting is to first start out in the open with a clay thrower and your hunting buddy. Work on the typical angles and distances common to woodcock coverts. Then challenge your focus by moving into the woods, throwing the same angle and distances practice seeing the target with the same clarity regardless of the obstacles. The mental practice of “tuning out” is very common in all sports. The discipline it takes to eliminate distractions for a basketball player shooting free throws or a baseball batter at an away game in a full stadium is practiced as much as the technique.
Remember “there are no trees.”