How will the drought effect our woodcock.


There is a lot of speculation this year because of the drought conditions we had all summer as to how good the woodcock hunting will be this year. Unfortunately there is no easy answer to the conundrum.
Over the years hunters have bickered over this topic in dry years. We know these birds want to travel to the north to their breeding grounds but they often hold up in dry years and arrive a lot later than usual or bypass dry areas almost entirely or so it seems.
To understand this you have to understand their feeding and behaviour. Woodcock are migratory birds that rely on riparian scrublands and forests. Meaning, they like cover near rivers and streams. They also thrive in upland scrublands and young forests and these second growth forests provide vital nesting habitat. Their feeding grounds are typically in moist fertile areas abundant with worms which make up the bulk of their diet. In dry years, its been said that woodcock will feed on ants pluck from anthills. To sum all that up, they require good second growth forests with moist soil they can feed in. That's quite an issue in dry years.

However, how big of an issue is this? Lets keep in mind that the birds are here in the Northwoods to breed. They spend their winters in the south in the wintering grounds, mainly Louisiana. In most cases guys get caught up in thinking they aren't going to have any birds if the migration is off. But don't forget, you already have the birds hopefully. When they begin to migrate, you won't anymore.
Chances are good that if you live or hunt in an area with good woodcock cover than you have birds in the fall. Funky migration times can cause your birds to leave early or late which can throw you off and it certainly will throw off hunting the birds passing through your area from the north. But its not the end.
Another important thing to remember is that Woodcock numbers are declining and doing it steadily. You will be a very lucky hunter is you experience higher than normal woodcock numbers in your area and that will most likely be a result of better than average conditions in your area resulting in more stop overs during the migration.
I'm not a scientist, but a lot of this is common sense. The unfortunate fact is that we don't know a lot about these birds in comparison to other species we hunt. Science is coming along quick however and we are learning more an more every year. There are even birds being GPS tagged now.
In a nutshell, don't be too concerned. The birds are going to move down south, its a matter of when and where.

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