The Hunter’s Canon: Top Books for Hunting Upland Birds

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From the earliest tales of the mountain men to current books that detail even the most niche aspects of our sport, hunting has always spawned a vast and rich literary tradition. Over the course of five weeks, we’ll highlight our favorite books and onX Blog posts on Western Big Game, Upland, Whitetail, Turkey, and Waterfowl hunting. As seasons wind down, you’ll have a long reading list to keep you busy through the winter months.

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Upland hunting is unique in that the most significant relationship is not between man and prey. If you spend any time around bird hunters, you’ll quickly realize that it’s the bond between man and dog that motivates the pursuit. While the birds play an important role, they are often merely the supporting cast in both the hunt itself and the literature that portrays it. In the books and blog posts to follow, you’ll find practical tips, classic works of literature, and explanations for why success can’t be measured by the weight of a game bag.

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Grouse Feathers by Burton L. Spiller

Originally published in 1935, “Grouse Feathers” is the almost certainly the most widely read book on grouse hunting ever written. Since it’s debut, it has become a sort of textbook on the subject, and Spiller’s soulful interludes convey a deep love and appreciation of the sport.

The Upland Equation: A Modern Bird-Hunter’s Code by Charles Fergus

To Fergus, the upland equation is comprised of the land and game, the dog, and the shotgun. While there are plenty of practical tips on how a hunter must combine these three elements to hunt successfully, it is the final chapter, Balance, that offers the most poignant observations and prescriptions on the future of the sport.

The Orvis Guide to Upland Hunting by Reid Bryant

I’ve had the pleasure of following dogs in the uplands with Reid, host of The Orvis Hunting and Shooting Podcast, and it’s a privilege to call him a friend. This book was many years in the making, and accompanied by striking photos from the ultra-talented Brian Grossenbacher, this is a comprehensive guide to all aspects of upland hunting. Read it cover-to-cover, then leave it on the coffee table to flip through when you feel the need to answer a quick question or view gallery-worthy images of birds, dogs, and shotguns.

Afield: American Writers on Bird Dogs by Various Authors

This compilation of short stories focuses on what is, to many, the most important aspect of bird hunting—the dogs. Authors include literary giants like Jim Harrison and Tom McGuane, famous hunters like Tom Brokaw, true lovers of nature like Guy De La Valdene and Rick Bass, and many others. A finer collection of short stories on upland hunting has never been assembled.

Upland Autumn: Birds, Dogs, and Shotgun Shells by William G. Tapply

Upland hunting’s literary tradition was born in the Northeast, and Tapply is a pivotal narrator of this history. These are true hunting tales, and Tapply captures every emotion that accompanies the pursuit of upland game. Reading Upland Autumn is the closest you’ll get to sitting around a woodstove at grouse camp and trading stories.

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Montana outfitter Tim Linehan is one of the most capable outdoorsmen we know. In the 29 years since he moved to Montana and established his outfitting business, Tim waited patiently to draw a coveted Unit 100 moose tag. Through the lens of an October grouse hunt, we explored Tim’s love of the wilderness, his philosophies on hunting, and how things transpired when his moose tag was finally drawn.

onX Hunt in the Uplands

We’re fortunate to work with an incredible team of Ambassadors, and Brandon Moss’s love for upland hunting and bird dogs is unmatched. Here, Brandon describes how he uses the Hunt App to plan better hunts and find more birds.

Bird Dog Conditioning and First Aid

With help from onX Ambassador Brandon Moss and Shawn Wayment, DVM, we cover everything you need to know about getting your dogs ready for the season and what to do when things go wrong. You owe it to your dogs to keep them in fighting shape and to know how to approach common injuries they might sustain, so spend some time studying up and preparing a canine first aid kit before your next trip into the field.

Get more hunting book recommendations, including books on hunting waterfowl, from our experts.

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Christian Fichtel

Raised in North Carolina’s Appalachian Mountains, Christian Fichtel now resides in rural Montana. He is a father, writer, hunter, and fly fisherman.