Upland Hunting Etiquette: The Unwritten Rules

Upland hunting has its own set of unspoken rules that enhance the experience for everyone. If you're fortunate enough to be invited to a hunt, remember these essential guidelines to maintain harmony with your hunting group. Doing so might just earn you another invitation.

As hunting season approaches, upland hunting etiquette is on the horizon, I don’t need a calendar to remind me. My phone starts buzzing with messages and my social media inboxes fill up with friends, both old and new, eager to coordinate hunts. While I always look forward to reconnecting with long-time buddies, the continuation of these hunting partnerships often hinges on the success of our initial outing.

First impressions are crucial. The initial hunt can determine if there will be subsequent ones. While there are various reasons a hunting partnership might not continue, from safety issues to differing motivations, often it’s the nuances of upland hunting etiquette that make the difference.

Whether you’re a newcomer or a seasoned hunter, here are some etiquette pointers to consider when joining others for a hunt this season.

Respect the Dog

It might seem obvious, but it’s worth emphasizing: never attempt to command or control another hunter’s dog. While you might get away with critiquing someone’s shooting technique or gear, handling or criticizing their dog is a no-go. Every hunter trains their dog uniquely, often with specific safety considerations in mind. When you’re a guest, it’s best to let the dog’s owner handle their pet.

When hunting with pointing dogs, remember not to shoot at birds that weren’t pointed. This practice ensures that the dogs learn to point as soon as they detect a bird, rather than rushing in. If you’re unsure about any aspect, consult your host.

Preserve the Hunting Grounds

Many hunters, myself included, are committed to conserving the hunting grounds through controlled hunting and selective harvesting. For instance, as a New England grouse hunter, I limit my hunts to once or twice a season per location, taking only a couple of birds each time. By the time winter sets in, I prefer to let the remaining birds survive and breed in the spring rather than pursuing them.

With declining bird populations in many areas, it’s crucial to hunt responsibly. For instance, hunting covey birds requires monitoring the health of coveys, avoiding excessive hunting pressure, and not over-hunting a covey. As hunters, our actions can play a significant role in ensuring the survival of these bird species.

Mind Your Manners, Zip Your Lip

If someone shares their hunting spot with you, show gratitude and respect. Avoid boasting about your own hunting locations or past successes. Stay humble and open to learning. Criticizing dogs is also off-limits. If you have a well-trained dog, that’s great, but refrain from pointing out perceived flaws in others’ dogs.

Our Little Secret… Don’t “Hot Spot”!

If you’re invited to a prime hunting location and have a successful hunt, resist the urge to broadcast your success or the location (AKA Hot Spotting). Sharing such details, especially on social media, is generally discouraged and will almost guarentee you get forgotten the next time invites go out.

If you’ve been introduced to a great hunting area, cherish the experience. Don’t assume you can return whenever you like or bring along a group of friends. Always communicate with your host before revisiting a spot they introduced you to.

Upland hunting is a cherished tradition, and our community is tight-knit. Let’s work together to ensure its longevity for future generations. Small gestures and respect can leave a lasting positive impression.

Dexter Derelict
Dexter Derelict
Director of All Things Digital

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