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Getting Started: Upland Game Bird Hunting

Getting Started: Upland Game Bird Hunting

Stay Local. Stay Natural. Eat Wild Game.

Hunting is one of the most inexpensive and ethical ways to fill your freezer with natural, free-range meat. But taking up hunting can be challenging and intimidating. Don’t let this discourage you. We can help you with all the information and resources you’ll need to safely and responsibly hunt and harvest your own local food.

The basics of hunting upland game birds in Ohio are outlined below, and you can also get started learning with our interactive Introduction to Upland Game Bird Hunting online learning module. This content will cover the basics, including upland game bird ecology, rules and regulations, an overview of upland bird hunting, and places to hunt … all at your own pace! A fact sheet, outdoor skills YouTube videos, and other resources are also available. After reviewing introductory information, we encourage you to attend a virtual or in-person learning opportunity with friendly and knowledgeable staff for hands-on experience.

Link: Introduction to Upland Game Bird Hunting Learning Module Link: Introduction to Upland Game Bird Hunting Fact Sheet Link: YouTube Playlist - Learn Outdoor Skills Link: Wild Ohio Harvest Community Events and Learning Opportunities Link: Wild Ohio Harvest Cookbook Link: Where to Hunt in Ohio

Basics of Upland Game Bird Hunting in Ohio

The Benefits of Learning to Hunt

Harvest Your Own Natural Food
Hunting is a source of natural, free-range and inexpensive food. Not to mention the meat is lean and healthy!

The Challenge
On a hunt, your senses are sharpened. Awareness of your surroundings is heightened. This is more than observing the environment – it’s active engagement. Hunting challenges the mind and the body. It demands skill, knowledge, and patience. 

Experiencing Nature
Hunting brings us closer to nature and understanding our natural environment.

Conservation
Hunting in the United States is highly regulated, which helps make it a safe, sustainable and highly popular activity. The sale of hunting licenses, permits and stamps provides much-needed funds to wildlife research and management programs. Ethical hunters care about the environment. Without proper conservation, our wild spaces could be lost.

Ecological Balance
The Division of Wildlife manages healthy animal populations by implementing regulations, which are directly related to the need to manage species’ numbers. Without hunters, the carrying capacity, or the number of animals that the habitat can support all year, may be unsustainable, which would lead to damage for the wildlife or the habitat.

Learn more about how nature, local food, and a variety of motivations are linked through hunting in “Why Hunt?”, a publication of the Aldo Leopold Foundation. Established in 1982, this conservation organization works to inspire an ethical relationship between people and nature through the legacy of Aldo Leopold.

Why Hunt? A Guide for Lovers of Nature, Local Food, and Outdoor Recreation (Aldo Leopold Foundation)

Upland Game Bird Hunting Considerations

What Makes Upland Game Bird Hunting Different?
Upland game bird hunting is active, and hunters walk through fields and suitable habitat to ‘flush’ birds out into the air. There are methods with and without dogs, and upland game bird hunting is often done with a group of people. In Ohio, many hunters pursue pheasant. Some counties are also open to quail hunting. There are other species of upland game bird, but they are not a focus of this content. Upland birds are known for several traits which distinguish them from other birds. They are chicken-like in appearance, and have short, rounded wings, short heavy bills, and heavy bodies. They stay on dry ground and seek cover in grass, brush, or woodlands. Typically, these birds do not migrate, but adapt to seasonal changes.

It is important to note that upland game bird hunting involves shots at a moving target. This is different than hunting for bigger game, when you are typically taking a shot at a stationary animal. Trap and skeet ranges are excellent places to practice shooting at moving targets. Since hunters ‘flush’ birds into the air and there are other hunters or hunting dogs in the immediate area, it is very important to only take shots at birds in the air. Knowing which hunter will be shooting in each situation (zones of fire) is also essential. Safe shooting zones and firearm safety are very important in these situations, and it is important to know where your hunting partners and dogs are at all times.

When hunting for upland game birds, you can use a firearm or a bow in Ohio. Firearms are popular, and most often used. Learn more about firearms on our Getting Started: Firearms page or learn more about archery options on our Getting Started: Archery page. 

Getting Started: Firearms
Getting Started: Archery

Hunter Education and Safety

Hunter Education
To buy a hunting license in Ohio, you’ll first need to complete a hunter education course. Our courses cover firearms, archery, outdoor safety, wildlife management, conservation and more. Best of all, you can choose between instructor-led learning and home-study courses.

Learn more about completing Hunter Education

Review the Hunter Education Study Guide Online
Reading the Hunter Education Guide is a great way to get started learning about hunting, firearm safety and understanding wildlife.

Hunter-ed is committed to hunter education safety and provides print and internet hunting safety courses for more than 45 states.

Hunter Education Study Guide (Hunter-ed)

Prepare
If you’re learning to handle firearms or archery gear, or simply want to sharpen your skills, there are a number of public shooting and archery ranges available to you.

Getting Started: Firearms
Getting Started: Archery
Find Ohio Public Shooting and Archery Ranges
Public Shooting Ranges Contact Information & Buy Permits

Build Your Skills: Learning Opportunities

Buy an Apprentice License
Apprentice hunting licenses and apprentice fur taker permits allow new hunters and trappers, both adults and youth, to sample the experience of hunting and trapping under the mentorship of a licensed adult prior to completing a hunter or trapper education course.

Learn more about the Apprentice License

Participate in a Skill Session with Us
There's no better way to learn than getting out in the field and giving it a try. If you don't know anyone who can take you out hunting, consider participating in a hands-on learning opportunity with the Division of Wildlife, with one of our Wild Ohio Harvest Community events. Division staff are committed to guiding you through the process of learning essential hunting skills in a patient and pressure-free environment. This can also be a great place to meet other new hunters!    

Check out our calendar of upcoming Wild Ohio Harvest Community experiences, classes, and courses (virtual and in-person). These opportunities are provided by the ODNR Division of Wildlife and other skilled and knowledgeable conservation organizations across the state.

Wild Ohio Harvest Community Calendar of Events

Participate in a Partner Event
Many conservation organizations and conservation clubs throughout Ohio such as Pheasants/Quail Forever and Backcountry Hunters & Anglers offer learning opportunities for anyone to try their hand at hunting and other outdoor activities. These organizations are dedicated to instructing new and continuing participants, opportunities can range from beginner level to advanced, and some are specifically for new participants. This is also a great way to meet other people who are passionate about sharing their knowledge with new hunters.

Search Conservation Clubs in Ohio (Google)

Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever are dedicated to wildlife habitat conservation and their mission is to conserve pheasants, quail, and other wildlife through habitat improvements, public access, education, and conservation advocacy.

Learn more about Pheasants Forever
Learn more about Quail Forever

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA) advances positive change for wild public lands, waters, and wildlife.

Learn more about BHA

Other Learning Opportunities
Many businesses and organizations offer outdoor recreation courses seasonally and year-round in Ohio. L.L. Bean, Cabela's, Field & Stream are just a few that provide opportunities at different levels to learn how to shoot, hunt, fish and cook wild game in addition to other outdoor recreation courses.

Learning Resources: Preparing for the Hunt

Overview of Upland Bird Hunting
Important parts of getting ready for an upland game bird hunting season include purchasing your hunting license, reviewing the most current version of the Ohio hunting regulations and local regulations, finding a place to hunt, spending some time before hunting season checking it to find good places to set up (scouting), reviewing shot placement, and making sure your firearm is ready. The resources listed below are great places to start.

Introduction to Upland Game Bird Hunting Online Learning Module
Introduction to Upland Game Bird Hunting Fact Sheet [pdf]
Allowable Hunting Equipment
Hunting Regulations
Annual Pheasant Releases in Ohio

Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever

Review a guide for beginners wanting to learn more about pheasant or quail hunting on the Pheasants Forever or Quail Forever webpages.

Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever are dedicated to wildlife habitat conservation and their mission is to conserve pheasants, quail, and other wildlife through habitat improvements, public access, education, and conservation advocacy. 

Getting Started: Guide for Beginners (Pheasants Forever)
Getting Started: Guide for Beginners (Quail Forever)

Buy Your Hunting License and Permits
All hunters, regardless of age, must carry a valid hunting license to hunt or trap game in Ohio. Hunting deer, turkey, waterfowl, or hunting or trapping of furbearers also requires the hunter to possess an additional game-specific permit. Hunting licenses and permits are available at all authorized license sales agents and online. Ohio’s license year begins March 1 and ends the last day of February.

Buy Licenses and Permits Online
Upland Game Permit & License Finder - Not sure which upland game hunting permit & license to purchase? Use this handy flow chart to find out.

Review Statewide and Local Regulations

Statewide Regulations
Hunting in Ohio is seasonal and regulated to protect animal populations. Make sure you understand the right time to pursue game and the correct methods to do so.

View the Ohio Hunting Regulations

Ohio laws in their entirety can be found by consulting the Ohio Revised Code (ORC) or the Ohio Administrative Code (OAC). These laws are subject to change. It is your responsibility to be aware of the most current laws when shooting firearms.

Ohio Revised Code (ORC)
Ohio Administrative Code (OAC)

Local Regulations
Be aware of local hunting regulations (e.g. city regulations) before hunting.

Find a Place to Hunt

Public Land
The Division of Wildlife owns and allows public hunting on wildlife areas across the state. 

Find a Place to Hunt
Public Hunting & Wildlife Area Maps (printable)
Ohio's Public Lands & Facilities Interactive Map
State Owned Lands Designated as Public Hunting Areas [pdf]

Annual Pheasant Releases in Ohio

Controlled Hunting Access Lotteries
The Division of Wildlife conducts annual hunts on a number of areas that are normally closed to hunting. All applicants (adults and youth) must possess a current hunting license to apply for controlled hunts. Participation is determined by random computer-generated drawings.

Controlled Hunting Access Lotteries

Permission to Hunt on Private Land
The landowner's written permission is required for hunting and trapping on private land, regardless of whether the land is posted. Permission slips are available at all Ohio Division of Wildlife district offices, in the Ohio Hunting and Trapping Regulations, or it may be downloaded below.

Permission to Hunt Form [pdf]

Equipment Preparation & Shot Placement

Take some time to familiarize yourself with your firearm, to ensure you know the effective range for your implement, can place accurate shots, and feel comfortable with it. Test out different distances and consider wearing the same clothes you would on the hunt. Learning where to place a shot for an ethical harvest on upland game birds and how to ‘swing through the shot’ (a technique for success in hitting moving targets) are essential skills. Be sure to practice with moving targets at the range before heading into the field. Safe shooting zones and firearm safety are very important in these situations, and it is important to know where your hunting partners and dogs are at all times. Learn more in our Introduction to Hunting Upland Game Birds learning module.

Introduction to Hunting Upland Game Birds Learning Module

Learning Resources: Hunting Equipment

Using the Right Equipment
If you are thinking about taking the next step into hunting after learning to shoot, it is important to know that only certain kinds of hunting equipment may be used when hunting different wildlife species.

Allowable Hunting Equipment
Introduction to Upland Game Bird Hunting Online Learning Module

Learning Resources: Hunting Upland Game Birds

Know Your Wild Game
Only certain species can be legally hunted in Ohio and each has a specified hunting season. As a good hunter, it is also important to know as much as you can about the species you are hunting.

Season Dates and Bag Limits

General Resources

Getting Started Learning to Hunt (Locavore Guide)
Field Processing Wild Game (Locavore Guide)
The Modern Carnivore
Wild Game: A Nutrition Guide (Outdoor Life)

Upland Game Birds

Introduction to Upland Game Bird Hunting Online Learning Module
Introduction to Upland Game Bird Hunting Fact Sheet [pdf]
WOHC YouTube: Learn Outdoor Skill
Pheasants Forever
Quail Forever
National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative
Ruffed Grouse Society/American Woodcock Society
American Woodcock Migration Mapping System
Pheasant Releases in Ohio

Learning Resources: After the Hunt

Field Dressing and Meat Processing

After you have harvested upland game birds, you will need to remove the internal organs to cool the meat and process it (the process of separating the meat into desired cuts for consumption). You can learn about processing and cooking wild game in our Wild Ohio Harvest Cookbook.

Wild Ohio Harvest Cookbook: Processing & Cooking Wild Game
Wild Ohio Harvest Cookbook: Game Bird Recipes

Penn State Extension and Hunter, Angler Gardener, Cook Resources

Find additional resources on proper field dressing and handling of wild game by visiting Penn State Extension or find information on plucking for a whole bird presentation in an article from Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook.
Penn State Extension is an educational organization dedicated to delivering science-based information to people, businesses, and communities.

Find additional resources on proper field dressing and handling of wild game by visiting Penn State Extension or find information on plucking for a whole bird presentation in an article from Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook.

Penn State Extension is an educational organization dedicated to delivering science-based information to people, businesses, and communities.

Proper Field Dressing and Handling of Wild Game (Penn State Extension)Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook is a website run by Hank Shaw, a former restaurant cook who writes cookbooks related to fishing, foraging, and hunting.

On Plucking Birds (Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook)

Cooking - Make Your Culinary Experience Wild!

Wild Ohio Harvest Cookbook
And now for the most rewarding part - creating a delicious, healthy meal. We love cooking at the Division of Wildlife and have compiled many fish and wild game recipes over the years. Search for wild game recipe ideas in our online Wild Ohio Harvest Cookbook! 

Wild Ohio Harvest Cookbook: Game Bird Recipes
YouTube: Wild Ohio Harvest Cookbook Recipes

Other Wild Game Cooking Resources
There is a lot more information out there about cooking wild game, along with creative recipes to try. Here are a few of our favorite resources.

Hunter, Angler, Gardner, Cook is a website run by Hank Shaw, a former restaurant cook who writes cookbooks related to fishing, foraging, and hunting.

Hunter. Angler. Gardener. Cook.

Modern Carnivore is focused on reconnecting people to healthy meat options and introducing them to a lifestyle of "direct harvest" including foraging, hunting, and fishing.
Modern Carnivore: Recipes

Stay Informed and Support Your Wild Ohio

There's More to Come!
The Division of Wildlife works hard to keep Ohioans informed of all the latest wildlife-related happenings around the state, provide opportunities to participate in outdoor recreation and teach the importance of wildlife conservation. Don't lose touch - follow us on social media, get the Wild Ohio Magazine, and sign up for email alerts. We are planning more opportunities for beginning hunters in the very near future!

ODNR Division of Wildlife Facebook
Your Wild Ohio - Angler Facebook
ODNR Division of Wildlife Instagram
ODNR Division of Wildlife Twitter
ODNR Division of Wildlife LinkedIn
Wild Ohio Magazine
ODNR Division of Wildlife Weekly Email Updates

Support Ohio's Wildlife
We can't manage wildlife populations without you! The Division of Wildlife does not receive general tax dollars to manage Ohio's native wildlife, so contributions are always appreciated. Here are some ways your dollars can support wildlife conservation in your Wild Ohio:

Wild Ohio Harvest Community Instagram

  • Your annual fishing license or hunting license
  • An Ohio Wetlands Habitat Stamp
  • An Ohio Wildlife Legacy Stamp
  • Wildlife license plates
  • Make a donation, or give through the tax check-off program

Donate to Ohio's Wildlife Conservation
Purchase a Specialty Wildlife Conservation License Plate
Purchase an Ohio Wildlife Legacy Stamp
Make a Tax Donation
Make a Memorial Donation

Help a Biologist and Report Wildlife Sightings

Report your wildlife sightings online and help Ohio biologists track a number of different species, including black bear, bobcat, river otter, ruffed grouse, turkey and more.  For more information on how you can help, please follow the link below.

Report Wildlife Sightings Online