We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
I have frequently felt something like remorse, when, on picking up a wounded one, I have met the forgiving expression of its full and bright, yet soft hazel orb. How many of the beauties who dazzle and enslave us would be proud of such an eye.
Skinner's charming section on the Woodcock, written back before hunting seasons were instituted, is here.
The Woodcock is a fat little shorebird, fatter but not much larger than the American Robin, who renounced the shore and took up residence in our Eastern woods and swamps.
Like all shore birds, they are ground-dwellers and ground nesters, and do not perch. Because of their camoflage, their habit of feeding and being active at dawn and dusk, and their trick of freezing when approached, they are not commonly seen except in early spring, when the males perform their remarkable aerial mating dance at dusk.
Their long bills are hinged near the tip for capturing earthworms which they probe for in the soil and forest litter. They are thus necessarily migratory, to the Southern US.
A few other details: Woodock is the only "shorebird" which is a legal game bird in the US today. They are not widely hunted, but they make excellent sport and their liver-flavored breasts are a rare gourmet treat. The French especially favor the brains, on toothpicks. People who don't like to eat them should not hunt them. Their habitat overlap with the Ruffed Grouse makes a typical mixed bag for Ruffie hunters. Because of their small size and cute appearance, many hunters will admit a mingled sense of dismay and pleasure when they bag a Woodcock. Unlike grouse, they cannot be hunted without dogs, because you would never find them. A decline in Woodcock numbers has been noted over recent decades, which may be due to habitat loss, but the cause is not certain. They are fond of overgrown fields and orchards, wetland edges, and transitional young woodlands, especially birch and aspen. The European Woodcock looks like ours, but is larger. Woodcock's heads are oddly-arranged: their brains are upside-down, and their ears are in front of their huge eyes.
I think they're harder to hit than quail, especially if they surprise you. Quail get up fast & you never know exactly what direction they'll go, but usually the stay more or less on course once airborne. All the woodcocks I scared up tended to shoot almost straight up like they were spring-loaded and then take off flying almost in a corkscrew.
Maybe if you knew what your dog was pointing you could shoot 'em down easy on that vertical part, but we never set out to hunt them specifically. Usually we or a dog ran across them in woods we were crossing to get to another field, or were in while looking for single quail from a covey we had busted up.
When we cleaned the birds we segregated the woodcocks from the quail because Mom hated them and wanted to know exactly which birds they were so she wouldn't accidentally eat one!!
When my husband used to hunt with one of our britts she used to look back at him in disgust when he missed. She was a great woodcock dog. One of his favorite memories of her was when his friend shot one and it landed in the middle of a pond. She swam out and retrieved it (always delivering the bird to her master regardless of who shot it) his friend (someone you'd never picture kissing a dog)kissed her resoundingly on the cheek. No more hunting dogs , only corgis now. I miss them but don't know if it's fair to have them if you're not hunting with them.
You can hunt them without dogs; I've done it many times. It helps to have two or three hunters, but we put them up all the time. Without a pointer, the flush is more of a surprise and they're harder to hit, but it works. They can be really hard to find once down, though.