Brandon Moss: My History in Bird Hunting

Montana upland hunter Brandon Moss talks about his history in bird hunting—and the importance of family and good dogs—in our latest guest blog post.

Here at onX, we’re proud to partner with hunters who represent the best in their specialties. People who exemplify not only skill in the field, but also a determination to preserve and protect the important resources so critical to our way of life. To that end, we’re working with Brandon Moss, a fifth-generation upland hunter based in Billings, Montana.

Recently featured in a film from Project Upland, Brandon carries on generations of upland hunting legacy and is now raising his three daughters to carry on the tradition. We asked him, in his own words, to talk about his upland history. Here’s the story of Brandon Moss—reflecting on the past, his own challenges and the hopes he holds for his daughters as they come into their own as hunters.

Three generations of Montana hunters with Brittany spaniel and sage grouse, upland hunting.

“This year marks the 28th season I have hunted wild birds. My father introduced me to hunting and we spent many days together in the field over many seasons. He had a love for hunting which was passed down to me. However, it didn’t start with him. His father was hunting with my great-grandfather just before Theodore Roosevelt became president.  

My obsession for chasing pointing dogs started in the field with my dad. Out on the Montana prairies, he taught me what he had learned and come to love. He truly enjoyed hunting sage grouse, Hungarian partridge, sharptail grouse and pheasant. Together we would hunt birds, big game and varmints in the off-season—and I love it all—but upland hunting and bird dogs won my heart.

I still enjoy big-game hunting and love many aspects of it, but the majority of my time is spent with my Brittanys. My father spent more time learning and being in the outdoors than anyone I knew; I just took it to a new level that even he wondered about.

Man upland hunting with three Brittany spaniels.

Central Montana is where my obsession started. Even before I shot my first bird, I was at peace following a brace of pointing dogs in the field. I didn’t know exactly what I was feeling then, I just knew it was where I wanted to be. Over time that feeling only grew, never fading. Today, the uplands are still where I want to be… and must be. To put it lightly, hunting owns me.

After high school, I went to work for professional trainer Gary Pinalto down in Texas. Come summer, we loaded up 50 dogs and 12 horses, heading to North Dakota. We trained all summer; then fall came and it was time for me to head back to Montana to start guiding for upland birds.

The next year I started my own kennel business, training and breeding pointing dogs. I was living my dream. Between guiding, training and my own hunting, I was spending well over 200 days a year in the field. Spending that much time in the field, I’m not sure how I ever met someone to marry, but luckily I did and together we have three beautiful daughters.

Grandfather man pointing to sage grouse sign at watering hole in Montana.

A few years later, I sustained a major back injury. I struggled just to get around our house. Everything I had worked for was gone. I could barely walk, let alone train dogs—my whole world had changed, along with my future. Everything I worked for disappeared in a brief period of time. My hunting dreams were gone. Even though I lived for chasing upland birds, I had always dreamed of hunting wild sheep, but in my eyes that dream was gone.

The hardest part of my injury was my dogs. I knew they were sitting out in the kennel waiting for me, and I couldn’t even load them up in the truck. By the time fall came around I was able to walk small distances, and so I did. There was no way my hunting season was going down for any reason.

Through the pain we did what we could. My dogs by my side, on the open prairies of Montana, we walked while I pushed myself as much as I could. It was a fraction of the land we had covered before but nevertheless, we were hunting. Looking back and seeing what I went through, I understand how precious hunting is and how grateful I am to have it. I always say, “Hunting is the most important thing to me, next to my family.”

Older man upland hunting in Montana with shotgun and large sage grouse.

Thankfully my back has improved, but it still has a long way to go. I can hunt birds without much issue, along with some big game. My dream of hunting wild sheep has sparked to life once again. With a lot of work, one day I might find myself where the wild sheep live—without dreams there is nothing to look forward to. All my dreams revolve around hunting.

Dreams come with a price though. Not only do I have to work on myself, but also I have to make sure I’m doing my part to protect hunting, for the fifth, sixth and seventh generations of the Moss family. That means working on conservation projects, sharing my experiences and what I have learned, and talking about my trials and how they were worked out. These are a few of the things I do to insure there is hunting in the future.

The prairies of Montana have taught me so much. Wandering through the uplands allows me to connect with who I truly am. It is only when I set foot on these desolate grounds that I walk with my ancestors. Nothing else connects me with them like hunting does.

Young man in Montana hunting sage grouse.

I often wonder if a man spending time with his son in the 1800s knew the impact he would have on me today. Do I truly know what I am doing and how it will impact my kids, grandkids and great-grandkids? Will they appreciate all I learned and worked to become like I do for my father, grandfather and great-grandfather?

We owe it to our future generations to do all we can to protect, improve and learn what we can about the quarry we pursue. We owe it to us.”

GPS device and Brittany spaniel dog upland hunting in snow in Montana.

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Header Image: Jess McGlothlin