Empty Fields

Cody Leonard

As bird hunters, we are always hearing about the doom and gloom stories about bird habitat occurring across the nation.  And as concerning as that is I have noticed a very drastic side effect of this forecast, where have all the hunters gone?  I have bird hunted as long as I can remember.  It’s in my family, it’s in my blood. My Dad has always had a pair of setters. My uncle has always had setters or Britts.  I myself have my own pair of setters now.  In our family the best time of the year is always bird season.  Growing up, I can always remember running into a few other bird hunters out in the fields. Giving them a wave and staying out of the way, stoping and talking about birds, dogs, etc. But that doesn’t happen anymore. In fact, this bird season I ran into one nice fellow out with his GSP.  That was it. One day. One field. No more. I have hunted over 30 days this year. All on public land.


Almost everyone I work with, when they find out I am a bird hunter has the same group of responses. “I use to hunt birds, but there aren’t any more birds!” Or “why would you waste your time and not just go deer hunting”.  Living in Missouri you get a lot of that. Overwhelming majority of hunters here just hunt deer. I don’t. The way I look at it, as much time as I spend training and caring for my dogs, I’d just rather hunt them or not hunt at all. When deer season ends here in Missouri we know we can go out to any conservation area and have free reign. No other hunters anywhere.


This is a double edge sword.  On one side, selfishly I know the dogs will really get to work the ground. Find birds. (And we found plenty of birds this year). And grow as bird dogs.  I have two 3yr old setters that are growing into very fine bird dogs. On the other side, the less bird hunters there are the less likely the state is to assist in conservation efforts.

I have one more weekend to get out in the field and hunt with my young pups. And then the long off season of dog training, dreaming about bird hunting, and thinking about grand ideas of what next season holds. There may not be any other hunters out in the field. But I am confident that with good dog work we will continue to find birds. Continue to go bird hunting. Continue to follow the dogs through the brush. Because, really where else would you want to be?