Woodcock – What Have I Been Missing

We never took a picture of a woodcock in the field, so this one is from wikipedia/commons.

Encountering woodcock as we trooped the wilds of south and central Georgia, James Walton and I finally scored on this wonderful, game bird. Taking our time and shooting them on the rise before they leveled off we bagged our first four woodcock!

What Have I Been Missing
The 1978/79 quail season in Georgia hadn’t been a disaster because we got some birds each time out, but it had been a wet, drippy and generally disagreeable one. The ground stayed damp and, in some places, generally mushy and these conditions led me to find out something that I’d been missing

We had been having reasonable success with quail around Thomaston, south of our homes in Sandy Springs, and this particular, drippy day, late in the season, James Walton and I were out early with my two Brittany’s, Rooster and Gus. Gus, 1-1/2 years old, was learning fast and would prove to be another great one like his Dad, Rooster!

Our first covey of the morning was “caught” between their roost and feeding grounds in fairly open cover. Rooster pointed, Gus backed and, walking in, the birds exploded in every direction. Picking one out and firing, down it went, and James bam, bammed twice and knocked one down. The covey split into two groups when they escaped, one cruising across the field into a creek bottom and the other, 200 yards into a low, wooded area on our right.

After each dog retrieved a bird, we went after the group on the right and followed them into the, we found as we entered, mushy woods. The dogs were birdy and not saying anything to James, I noticed several holes, a little bigger than a pencil lead, in the soft ground. Hmm, these were the same kind of holes I saw last year before that crazy, woodcock took flight. As I was studying this development, I heard, a “tweeping” sound and wings beating much like a quail, just as James boomed and down the woodcock tumbled.
Gus was right on it, picked it up, then spit it out and wouldn’t touch it. Rooster brought it to me and I looked down, surprised, at a woodcock! It looked like a Wilson snipe to me. The same snipe that can be hunted with a “toe sack” (ha-ha) and the same one that leaves coastal gunners shooting holes in the sky.

James who had lived in the northeast said, as he bagged his kill, “They’ll be more in here. Get ready!” Rooster figured it out and within 50 yards locked down, hard on a point and up wobbled another one that tumbled to my shot, my first woodcock! Rooster retrieved it as Gus was locked down and James walked in on the point and up buzzed a quail that he dispatched. Gus picked up the quail, brought it to me and I tossed it to James. He still wouldn’t touch the woodcock.

Out of this patch of mushy woods we collected two more quail and I knocked down my second woodcock. Our drippy morning, turned into a rainy day and before noon we called it quits and drove on home.
My story doesn’t end here. Not knowing how to prepare a woodcock, my ex-wife and I decided to cook them just like we cooked Wilson snipe. We put the quail in with the woodcock and seasoned all with salt, pepper and garlic, added some cubed potatoes, onions and little carrots, covered it all with some “fair to middlin” white wine and then cooked them real slow, until the potatoes were done. As usual, the quail were wonderful, but the family agreed that the woodcock was good beyond belief!

After supper we consulted the family encyclopedia and found out that woodcock migrate yearly from the eastern part of our country and Canada, to the wooded, coastal prairies along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico shores. This late in our season, these birds were headed north.

There was one week left in the bird season and it certinly would be nice to get a crack some more woodcocks!