Start hunting game birds
Whether it’s spending more time outdoors or harvesting food for the freezer, there are lots reasons to become a hunter. Here’s how to get from thinking about it to doing it.
In this Article
Decide what to hunt for
Game birds are wide-spread, offer an exciting shooting challenge, and are easy to process and cook.
Deer and elk hunting are more popular quarry, but more challenging to hunt. If you’re up for it, here are some tips to get you started big game hunting.
Take a hunter education course
Take a hunter education course – A hunter education course will teach you a lot about how to handle and shoot a weapon safely, hunting regulations, ethics, and even some tips and techniques. In Oregon, hunter education is required for youth under age 18, but we highly recommend it for new adult hunters, as well.
While Oregon doesn’t require adults to have taken hunter education, several nearby states do. So, if you see an out-of-state hunt in your future, you’ll need your hunter education certification.
Take an ODFW hunting workshop
ODFW workshops and events – Each year ODFW offers hands-on pheasant and duck hunting workshops, usually in the fall, that include an actual hunt! There also are shotgun skills workshops for some hands-on experience learning how to safely handle and shoot different styles of shotguns.
Check upcoming courses and workshops page frequently as we’re often adding new courses and workshops.
Find a place to hunt
Public and private lands in Oregon -- There are hunting opportunities on both public and private land in Oregon.
The largest public land owner in Oregon is the federal government. Two federal agencies – the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management -- account for most of the 34 million acres of public land in the state.
US Forest Service – There are 11 national forests and one national grassland in Oregon, and most of this land is open to hunting. They are found across the state and encompass a vast range of habitat types suitable for a myriad of game species.
Bureau of Land Management – BLM land in eastern Oregon is characterized by large swaths of semi-arid landscapes that support a diverse array of game birdmos species.
The BLM also own 2.4 million acres of mostly forested lands in western Oregon.
Oregon State Forests – The Oregon Department of Forestry manages about 745,000 acres of forest land in the state. In most cases, these are working forests with active timber management. Timber harvest creates the kind of openings and variations in plant cover that make for great animal habitat.
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife – The agency owns and/or manages 19 wildlife area across the state that are open to hunting and/or fishing. Several of these areas are managed primarily for game birds where habitat is manipulated or crops are planted to benefit game birds. At some of these areas, only certain days during the seasons are open for hunting or you may need an advanced reservation to hunt there. Be sure to check the regulations for the area.
Most ODFW wildlife areas require a parking permit, the proceeds of which help fund habitat improvements and visitor amenities at wildlife areas.
U.S Fish and Wildlife Service – Several National Wildlife Refuges allow game bird hunting. Just like ODFW’s wildlife areas, only certain days during the seasons are open for hunting or you may need an advanced reservation to hunt there. Check the current Oregon Game Bird Hunting Regulations for a list of national refuges in Oregon allow hunting, and the current regulations.
In addition to public lands that offer universal access, there are some private landowners that allow public access for hunting.
Private landowners – Many individual ranch or timberland owners will allow hunting access to hunters who ask for permission. Never assume private property is open to hunting: Always ask for permission first!
Industrial timber companies – These companies tend to own large swaths of forest land, and many allow access to hunters. The linked table lists most of the major players as well as access information and contact numbers.
ODFW partnerships – ODFW has several programs through which it partners with private landowners to provide public hunting access. All have a slightly different genesis, and a different webpage, but they all have similar purposes.
- Access and Habitat Program properties -- ODFW partners with private landowners to provide hunting access to private land.
- Open Fields Program – Funded by the A&H Program, the Open Fields Program offer game bird hunters access to private lands in the Willamette Valley, Columbia River Basin and other areas.
- UCAP and Regulated Hunt Areas – These cooperative and incentive-based programs provide access to additional hunting on private property.
Oregon Hunting Access Map – This Google map highlights a number of properties and programs that allow access: state wildlife areas, national wildlife refuges, Access and Habitat properties, Travel Management Areas and Open Fields.
Buy/borrow some gear
For a day of hunting you’ll need a shotgun and ammo, the proper clothing and boots, and an emergency kit.
- A shotgun for bird hunting can be a big investment. (And so can a bow, which some people use to hunt wild turkey.) However, buying a used weapon can help reduce the size of that investment. Not every rifle or bow fits every hunter. Shop at a gun or archery store with knowledgeable staff, or shop with a friend who can help you find a weapon that fits you properly.
- The right clothes and boots will keep you comfortable in the field, and that will let you hunt longer. Dress for the weather you expect to encounter, but also be prepared for sudden changes in weather. If you’re an active outdoor person, you already may have the clothes and boots you need to spend a day outside.
One thing you may not have is a hunter orange hat, jacket or vest. Wearing hunter orange makes you extremely visible in the field. And since most upland game birds are color blind, you’ll be visible to other hunters but not necessarily to your prey.
Hunter orange is required for all hunters younger than 18.
- Finally, every hunter should carry what they’ll need to deal with minor injuries, getting lost and unexpected changes in the weathers.
Do I need to wear camouflage clothing? It depends on what you’re hunting for. Ducks, doves and turkeys have excellent eye sight and being able to blend into the environment can be important. Upland birds, which are hunters go after rather than call in, are relatively unbothered by bright colors – like hunter orange.
Buy a license
Buy a hunting license -- Everyone needs a license to hunt game birds in Oregon; however, licenses for hunters younger than 12 are free. The free license is required to get the necessary HIP validation. In addition, game bird hunter will need additional validations, stamps (federal Waterfowl Stamp for ducks and geese) and tags (wild turkey). Here’s more information on the types of and prices for game bird licenses and validations.
You can buy a license online or at an ODFW license vendor. If you’re buying your license online, you can print out a hard copy on your home computer, or download your license to your smart phone using the MyODFW app.
If you prefer to buy a license in-person, you can go to one of ODFW’s license vendors. This includes many Bi-Mart and Fred Meyer stores as well as several small independent retailers.
Check the regulations
Check the regulations – The regulations will tell you what areas are open to hunting and when, what you can harvest, and what tags and validations you’ll need to hunt different kinds of game.
You can check the regulations online, or get a printed booklet at an ODFW license vendor, or call your local ODFW office and we’ll send you one.
Check the Rec Report
Check the Recreation Report --This report describes game bird hunting conditions for the western and eastern parts of the state. It’s updated periodically by the local ODFW wildlife biologists. Once on the Recreation Report page, select the Game Bird hunting report and then what side of the state you want to hunt in.
Practice your shooting
Shooting a flying bird with a shotgun takes practice. You don’t want to climb to the top of the John Day canyon, only to miss your one shot at a chukar. So commit to some serious target practice before the hunting season begins.
Oregon Hunting Access Map – This Google map can help you find a shooting range that’s close to you.
If you’ve never shot a gun before, we recommend you start at a clay pigeon shooting range. A good instructor will go a long way toward perfecting your shooting skills. Spending time on the clays range will make you a more confident shooter. And besides, it’s fun!
Public land – Some public land management agencies like the Forest Service and BLM allow shooting on their lands, and if you live in a rural area this can be a convenient place to practice. Buy a box of target clays and a hand thrower to mimic a bird in flight. There are some restrictions to shooting on public lands, so be sure to check the agency websites first for the rules in your area.
Learn to hunt
How to hunt waterfowl -- You might think you need lots of gear (decoys, boats, a trained dog) to hunt ducks and geese, but you don’t. All you really need is a hunting license, stamps/validations, shotgun, shells, waders and some basic identification skills.
How to hunt upland game birds – This article includes all you need to know about hunting and cleaning upland birds like pheasant, quail, chukar, Hungarian partridge, grouse and wild turkey.
How to hunt snipe in Oregon -- Stalking Wilson’s snipe is a cross between waterfowl and upland bird hunting. Snipe aren’t hard to kill, but they are hard to hit.
How to hunt mourning dove – Dove hunting season opens early and offers one of the first opportunities to go afield each year. The action can be fast, offering lots of opportunities to shoot and the chance to sharpen your shooting skills.
How to hunt wild turkey in Oregon – This comprehensive turkey hunting course has detailed information on every aspect of hunting wild turkey during spring and fall seasons.
Don’t I need a dog to hunt upland game birds? No, you don’t. While many hunters partner with a trained hunting dog to pursue upland game birds, don’t let the lack of a dog keep you from hunting. You can be successful hunting birds without a dog, but you’ll need to adjust your tactics. Move slowly and quietly, thoroughly cover an area in a zig zag pattern, and be selective taking your shots – remember, you’ll need to retrieve whatever you hit.
Share your adventure
Take a photo -- For those that can’t hunt with you, a photo is the next best thing. You also can submit your photos to ODFW for use on their website, in brochures and on signs, and your photo could be shared with thousands of your closest friends.
Seek out a mentor – Sometime it’s just more fun to learn to hunt with a friend or family member. And hunting with an experienced hunter can reduce your learning curve. If you know someone that already hunts, ask to tag along on their next trip. Even if you’re not hunting yourself, you will learn a ton going along with someone who is.
Clean and cook your birds
In Oregon it’s illegal to “waste” game, so if you’re successful in your hunt you’d better be ready to clean it and cook it up. The how to hunt articles referenced above includes instructions for how to field dress and clean your birds.
By now you’ve probably already learned everything you can about game bird hunting from the internet. The best way to learn more is to pull on your boots and go hunting.
You might never know as much as you would like to, or have as much confidence as you think you need, but you’ll learn more on your first hunting trip than anywhere else – even if you’re unsuccessful. Just focus on staying safe, observing what’s around you and enjoying time outside, and you’ll be able to call yourself a hunter.
Still wanting to learn more about hunting in Oregon? We’ve got all kinds of articles and tip sheets for hunting all kinds of game. Just use the search button on MyODFW.com if you’re looking for something specific. If you’d rather browse to see what’s available, go to the articles page and use the filter feature to find How to hunt articles.
Have fun and stay safe.
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Header image: ODFW photo.
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