Happy opening day of dove season, America.
Across the country, millions of bird hunters celebrate this unofficial holiday of sorts by heading to sunflower patches, milo fields, and watering holes to test their wingshooting skills on one of the hunting world’s toughest targets: the mourning dove that skedaddles at some 50 miles per hour—without a tailwind. If hunters are successful, there will be breast fillets aplenty to stuff with jalapeno slivers and wrap in bacon before grilling.
Dove season is the warmup to upland bird seasons that will open across southern Canada and the northern states later in September and October. There will be Hungarian partridge and sharptailed grouse to test dog and man across the prairies, ruffed grouse and woodcock hunters of New England and the Great Lakes states will poke and prod thickets in the hopes of getting a glimpse of flushing birds that are more frequently heard than seen while there’s still a heavy curtain of leaves on the trees.
Come October the South Dakota prairies will resemble animated pumpkin patches as thousands of orange-clad pheasant hunters descend on that state, pumping $220 million into its economy. Then it will be the turn of the southern and western quail hunters to get their pointers back to work finding coveys of bobwhites and the western species of quail.
Cooler mornings bring a stirring in bird dogs and their owners, a hint that it’s once again time for that most celebrated time of the year—bird season. Dogs that were overfed and lazy in the off-season suddenly work off extra pounds (along with their owners) and they tune up their skills in deciphering the scent trails left by America’s menagerie of pheasants, grouse, quail, and myriad other upland gamers.
To a devout bird hunter (and there are roughly 2 million of them out of America’s 15 million total hunters), a new hunting season is an excuse to upgrade gear with the latest and greatest designs from a wide assortment of premium brands. Here, then, is a sampling of some of the best new entries…just in time for bird season:
Tom Beckbe Strap Vest
If you’re an upland bird hunter or a waterfowler, you know this company for its handsome and rugged designs. Their new strap vest delivers on the brand promise to be as functional as it is good looking. I’ve long favored strap vests because you can layer under them for about any temperatures and weather conditions, and they allow for maximum mobility. Too, when you’re hiking with a shotgun all day, it often doesn’t take many layers to keep yourself warm, so less is more in many cases. The vest shell is made of durable waxed shelter cloth, has adjustable shoulder straps made with no stretch cotton webbing, and a rear gamebag with two side pouches.
Orvis Pro Series Hunting Vest
When it comes to a passion for rod and gun, few brands transcend the sporting life like the venerable Orvis company. As the name implies, this vest was inspired by feedback provided by professional guides and others who spend more time outdoors than inside during bird season. One look at this vest and it’s easy to tell it’s meant for the bird hunter who leaves the truck with a dog in the morning and doesn’t return until day’s end. Whether hiking up the mountains for chukar or traversing the Arizona deserts for quail, this is the vest you can load up with everything you’ll need for a day and still has room to haul your birds back.
The vest features a hidden water bladder pocket as well as pockets for wallets, license, keys, and other valuables. There are straps on the bottom for securing layers no longer needed as the day heats up, and it features 220- square inches of blaze orange for safety when hunting in groups.
Summit Vest System by Final Rise
From Final Rise Gear is the one vest that has it all for serious bird hunters and gun dog fanatics. As the company says, “The Summit is the first fully customizable upland strap vest created to deliver a tailored fit.” That is, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more comfortable and versatile bird hunting vest.
Some of the vest’s features include: a generous game pouch for easy loading of birds, three built in zippered storage compartments, a non-padded shoulder harness to reduce gun hang-ups and to ease gun mounting. It also comes complete with two 32-ounce squeeze bottles and can even be used to carry a dog out of the field in an emergency.
Filson’s Upland Guide Strap Vest
Filson has long been a purveyor of durable and classic cotton and wool gear for upland bird hunters and waterfowlers. This vest was built for bird hunters who have miles to go before they sleep, to paraphrase Robert Frost. The wide-padded waist belt bears the fully-loaded weight on your hips—not your shoulders. Any hunter who has hiked all day with a shotgun knows just how important that is. The vest’s large pockets can haul additional clothing layers, first-aid supplies, food, and other essentials. Each shell pocket will carry more than a box of cartridges. There are also hidden zippered security pockets for phone, keys, and a wallet. The spacious game bag zips open for ease of cleaning and there are D-rings for attaching whistles, transmitters, and other accessories.
Madison Creek’s Beaver Creek Leather Vest
If you want an exceptionally handsome vest to wear while around a lodge or while out to dinner after a bird hunt, look no further than this beauty from Madison Creek, the makers of some of the best-looking jackets and vests around. This is the company’s best-selling leather vest and for good reason. It’s made of goat suede with a waxed finish. It also has a removable inside shearling collar, a storm flap with snaps, two lower slant pockets and a two-way zipper.
Boots Made For Walkin’
Le Chameau Chasseur Leather Lined Boot
Every Labrador or English field cocker should come with a pair of these boots, because if you own either of the two breeds, they’re going to take you to where you need these boots. I’ve been a fan of the Le Chameau wellington boots for more than 20 years. I still have a pair that I use regularly that are nearly that old. Nothing is better in mud and water than rubber, and this model gives you the comfort of leather on the inside with Le Chameau’s hallmark easy to clean exterior…all the while looking sporty. Beyond the premium functionality of the boot, they are extraordinarily comfortable to wear when hiking the bottomlands all day long. Part of the reason is because of the shock-absorbing, insulating, all-terrain sole with reinforced shank that provides amazing arch support.
Beretta Trail MID GTX Boot
In the sporting world, Italians aren’t just known to make many of the planet’s premier shotguns, they’re well- established expertise extends to footwear as well. If you’ve ever worn a pair of premium Italian hiking boots, you know just how amazing they can be. Put on a pair of the Trail MID GTX’s and you’ll see firsthand. They are both comfortable and incredibly well constructed, living up to the unmatched reputation for quality of a company that’s been around for 500 years. They’re made of waxed full grain leather, have a Gore- Tex insulated liner, and a Vibram outsole that ensures a great grip—even on wet surfaces.
Lucchese Lace Up Range Boot
While best known as a western boot maker (and they make a collection of real beauties), put on a pair of the Lace Up Range Boots and the first thing you think is, what took you so long? They deliver a wealth of comfort anywhere your feet can take you on the open range. Whether you’re planning a pheasant and grouse hunt across the Dakota prairies or a quail adventure through the Arizona desert, you’ll be hard pressed to find better footwear.
Ultimate Sporting Jackets
Wild Hare Oil Tin Winter Field Coat
Wild Hare has long been making top quality and creatively designed apparel for the shooting aficionado, and the new Oil Tin Winter Coat takes its rightful place atop their premium clothing line. Whether in the field shooting or on the town after a hunt, this beauty screams premium sporting lifestyle. In addition to its stunning good looks, the jacket fits beautifully and will keep you warm in chilly conditions. It’s made of oil tin canvas for water and wind resistance, features a double layer of quilted fleece, and is trimmed with top grain leather. Shoulder gussets provide full range of motion, and each shell pocket holds a full box of shotgun cartridges.
Carbon2Cobalt Men’s Sequoia Jacket
This distinctive entry from Carbon2Cobalt is made of tobacco colored nubuck leather and is hand burnished for a classic vintage look. The jacket has a chamois like velvety feel and yet is right at home in the field. The Sequoia has underarm seams with bellowed chest pockets and snap hip pockets with side-entry handwarmer pockets underneath. There is also an interior zip media pouch plus two buttoned pockets, and the comfortable body lining is made of 100 percent cotton.
Tom Beckbe Tensaw Jacket
One of this venerable company’s most popular products, the Tensaw Jacket is the ideal blend of functionality and rugged good looks. This classic cover is made with a durable waxed shelter cloth shell that gets even better looking with time as it forms a rich patina. Inside, the Tensaw features a comfortable cotton liner, and the collar is rimmed with Bedford corduroy for extra protection from the cold. The bi-swing back and gusseted underarms also provide for a full range of motion when shooting. Like many of the Beckbe products, the Tensaw Jacket is as at home in the field as it is on the town.
Sitka Jetstream Jacket
While best known for its premium technical big game hunting gear, the Sitka Jetstream Jacket is ideal for a wide variety of late season upland bird hunting applications. If you’ve never worn a garment with Gore’s Windstopper lining, it’s a game changer—especially when you’re hunting in a cold, unrelenting wind. The Jetstream is a perennial favorite and for good reason—it’s just the kind of softshell lightweight jacket (with comfortable fleece backer) that is a go-to versatile cover for the field.
Over Under Whitby Jacket
This brand is a keeper of the southern sporting lifestyle (and style) and the Whitby Jacket is another entry in their diverse line-up of handsome and well-made apparel. The classic diamond quilt pattern along with heavy duty 12-ounce waxed cotton exterior, corduroy elbow patches and collar, solid brass YKK zipper, and 200 gram cotton lining all combine to make this the perfect field coat for cool and wet weather conditions. The 200-gram tartan lining, hidden hand-warmer pockets, and large exterior pockets provide the versatility any hunter needs when heading afield.
Next Gen Brush Pants
Orvis Pro LT Hunting Pants
During the warm days of the early season, having lightweight brush pants that still provide thorn protection while offering mobility and breathability is key. That’s where the Pro LT’s come in. The pant’s tight weave, durable Cordura with technical stretch fabric, and articulated design deliver plenty of comfort. Additionally, a hidden drawstring in the cuff provides ground-up protection to keep twigs and seeds out of socks as well.
Beretta Boondock Pants
Another in a long line of Beretta’s premium upland apparel collection, the Boondocks wear more like gym clothes than traditional hunting pants. They’re made with stretch fabric for maximum freedom of movement along with abrasion resistant material that is treated with water repellent finishing. These lightweight brush pants feature an elastic waistband, YKK zipper, side pockets with YKK zippers, and high lumbar support.
Bird Belts & Accessories
Wren & Ivy—Bird & Clay Belt
What this company does with leather, canvas, and brass is closer to art than craftsmanship. Their substantial line of handsome shooting accessories, totes, and luggage all have three things in common: creative designs, uncompromising quality, and classic beauty. Take, for instance, their Bird & Clay Belt that is constructed of waxed twill canvas and bridle leather and features three pouches—including a large shell and bird pouch that’s lined with waterproof pack cloth for easy cleanup. The neoprene insulated beverage holder will handle several tall bottles of water, sodas, or perhaps an adult beverage? The gear pouch is specially designed with six choke tube loops and pockets for eye and ear protection. Bottom line, don’t leave for a dove field without it.
Mission Mercantile’s White Wing Waxed Canvas Bird Bag Trio
Early season bird hunting success often has as much to do with keeping yourself and your gun dog cool as it does shooting birds. Belt bags are easy to carry and extra cool since they don’t cover any of the torso. If you don’t need a large game pouch, they’re an ideal option. Such is the case with this luxe Bird Bag Trio. Two of the three pouches are designed to carry shotshells (live and spent) along with a larger game bag to carry doves, quail, and other game birds or waterfowl. The bags feature magnet closures and catches so that the bag flaps can be held open as easily as they can be closed.
Wren & Ivy Classic Stock Rest and Game Strap
The Stock Rest is a must have product for any shotgun shooter—whether upland bird hunting, waterfowling, or simply enjoying a day on the sporting clays range. Made of tanned bridle leather, the stock rest makes it easy to tote a shotgun all day long without shoulder and arm fatigue.
The Game Strap is also made of bridle leather and waxed twill canvas and is the ideal way to carry your group’s bag of ducks and geese out of the marsh in style.
Negrini Wings Shotgun Case
The revolution in gun case technology began and ended with Negrini’s entry into the market. It’s the case James Bond would use if he were a bird hunter. Gone are the bulky klunkers of yesteryear thanks to this Italian company’s reimagining of what a gun case could be. As they say in the field trial world when a dog has vastly surpassed its competition, second and third place withheld. Why? Because the Wings model is ultra- compact and lightweight and, frankly, is the Ferrari of shotgun cases—yet is uber durable because it’s manufactured with Negrini’s patented rigid double-wall automotive crash test bumper technology. It also has three TSA compliant steel combination locks for security. When you purchase a Negrini, you’re really buying peace of mind when traveling with a premium shotgun…and what’s that worth?
Tom Beckbe Leather Gun Sleeve
This classic beauty is made with full-grain leather exterior with a padded, synthetic fleece-lined interior. The top entry secures tightly with two snap closures and a buckle cinch. The 50-inch case comes with an adjustable leather shoulder strap that attaches to D-rings along the sleeve’s spine in shortened and regular configurations. The sleeve also has a zippered utility pocket for storing choke tubes and other incidentals.
Tom Beckbe Field Hat
There isn’t a bird hunter alive who doesn’t look better in one of these classic hats. The waxed shelter cloth with 2.5-inch wired brim and leather band looks as good as the hat feels. Tape up the small vents, turn the hat over, and fill it with water and you’ve got a portable dog watering dish as well. If the dog doesn’t finish the water, turn it over on your head and cool down during an early season jaunt through the fields or woods.
Orvis Uplander Sheepskin Shooting Gloves
Shooting gloves tend to be either too thin (a hole always seems to develop on the thumb that operates the safety) or they’re too thick and it’s not easy (or safe) to operate a trigger effectively. That is, until Orvis introduced my favorite Uplander Sheepskin Shooting Gloves—they’re so comfortable that I use them for winter driving as well.
Shirts That Have You Covered
Pyke’s Kiowa Upland Hunting Shirt
Upland bird hunters are hearing more and more from Pyke Gear because their products are smartly designed and well made. For instance, their Kiowa Upland Hunting Shirt is perfect to wear alone during the hot days of the early season or as an under layer as the temperatures drop. Put the shirt on and the first thing you notice is that it wears like a stretchy athletic garment—it’s not too tight nor is it too baggy—and the fabric breathes. It’s moisture wicking properties and abrasion resistant nylon forearms make it at home on the range.
Beretta Covey TM Tech Field Shirt
This is the kind of functional and stylish shirt you would expect from the world’s oldest gunmaker whose name is synonymous with bird hunting the world over. This comfortable men’s hunting shirt sports a mesh caped back that is light and breathable, has ripstop fabric, repels insects, is antimicrobial, and can be worn for just about any kind of hunting—as well as in the best high- end luxury lodges.
Filson’s Sportsman’s Shirt
When the company says, “You might as well have the best,” clearly this is one model to which they’re referring. It’s an ideal choice for early season, warm weather hunts. It’s made with ultralight nylon fabric that wicks moisture away and dries quickly to help you avoid the sweaty and clammy feeling that so often goes along with cotton shirts during warm weather early season hunts. Dual pleats on the rear yokes also provide freedom of motion for unrestricted gun mounting.
Sitka’s Riser Work Shirt
Don’t be fooled by this shirt just because it’s built for a broad application. Like Sitka’s other garments, it’s ruggedly constructed and fits with a modern look and moisture management so that you, as the company says, “Can go from the barn to the bar without skipping a beat.” And who doesn’t want to do that? Or at least from the briars to the bar….
Looking for Ladies Apparel? Look no further…
If you’re an upland bird hunter, chances are you know of the famed Kevin’s Catalog based in the quail plantation mecca of Thomasville, Georgia. In addition to a wide assortment of home goods that celebrate the sporting life, they offer a wide assortment of premium upland field clothing and gear for women (and men). Similarly, the McKenna Quinn company has built a loyal following among women hunters and shooters for their ultra- stylish and functional designs.